Skip to main content

Lead and Your Child

What is Lead?

Lead is a heavy metal found in the earth's crust. It can combine with other chemicals to form lead compounds or salts. Lead is a natural element that does not break down in the environment and is very hard to clean up.

Does Lead Affect Your Health?

Lead can be harmful to anyone. But children under the age of 6 are at the greatest risk of being harmed. Their bodies easily absorb lead. This can be bad for their brains and other organs and systems. Certain childhood behaviors, such as chewing on non-food items like paint chips or dirt, can lead to lead poisoning. This could lead to very serious illnesses, such as:

  • Speech, language and behavioral problems
  • Learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Behavior problems
  • Possibly death

There is no safe level of lead!

Your child should be screened for lead risk if:

  • You live in or often visit a house or apartment that may have been built before 1978
  • You live in or often visit a house or apartment that is being remodeled or is having paint removed
  • They have a sibling or playmate who has or has had lead poisoning
  • They live with anyone who works at a job where lead may be found or has a hobby that uses lead
  • They live near an active lead smelter, battery recycling plant or other industry likely to release lead
  • You use home remedies such as greta, azarcon or pay-loo-ah, or cosmetics with kohl in them
  • They chew on or eat non-food items like paint chips or dirt
  • Anyone in your family uses ethnic or folk remedies, cosmetics or eats candies from Mexico

Your primary care provider (PCP) should:

  • Do a lead blood test on children 12 and 24 months of age
  • Screen children between the ages of 2 and 6
  • Ask you questions about your child’s risk for lead poisoning at each visit from age 3 to 6

Visit WebMD for more information.

Last Updated On: 8/31/2015