Nutrition and Lead Poisoning Prevention

Nutrition can play a pivotal role in preventing childhood lead poisoning. It is important to help minimize the amount of lead that is absorbed and stored in the bones. Good nutrition helps accomplish this goal. A child's body requires certain minerals, especially calcium and iron. When these minerals are deficient in the body, lead absorption is increased. Children whose diet is deficient in these minerals retain more of the lead than they would have otherwise.

Regular Meals

An empty stomach absorbs more lead. By feeding your child healthy meals and snacks each day, it will help his or her body to absorb less lead.  

Foods Rich in Iron

Children need to have plenty of iron in their system. To the body, iron and lead look very similar. When there is more iron than lead, the body will absorb the iron. The following foods are rich in iron:
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Pureed meats
  • Lean red meats
  • Tuna, salmon, fish
  • Raisins, dates, and prunes
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Skinless poultry
  • Nuts or sunflower seeds

Foods Rich in Calcium

Foods that are high in calcium can also help the body absorb less lead. The following foods are rich in calcium:

  • Milk and milk products
  • Cheese and Yogurt
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Calcium-enriched orange juice
  • Tofu
  • Salmon
  • Peanuts

Foods Rich in Vitamin C

Vitamin C will help the body absorb more iron and calcium. The following foods are rich in Vitamin C:

  • Oranges and tangerines
  • Grapefruit
  • Limes and lemons
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers

Foods to Avoid

  • Foods stored in lead-soldered cans, glazed ceramic dishes or crystal.
  • Foods that could have picked up lead dust, such as food that has fallen on the floor.
  • Vegetables grown in lead-contaminated soil.
  • Food stored in printed plastic bread bags (the inks used for the wrapper may contain lead).
  • Candy that can contain lead, such as imported Mexican candy made with tamarind or chili power. Learn more about Lead in Candy from CDC
  • Folk medicines shown to contain lead. Find more details about Lead in Folk Medicines from CDC

For recipes and more information about nutrition and healthy diets to help prevent lead poisoning, download the EPA’s brochureFight Lead Poisoning with a Healthy Diet

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