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Children's Health Protection

Lead the Charge Against Lead Poisoning

Exposure to lead can be very harmful. Young children exposed to lead may have damage to their nervous systems, learning and behavioral problems, and reduced intelligence. Lead exposure can affect how quickly children learn and advance in school. It may even affect growth and hearing. It is important that you, and especially young children, limit exposure to lead to prevent the health effects of lead poisoning.

Not too long ago, the amount of lead in children’s blood was higher. Kids were exposed to lead because it used to be in gasoline. It’s no coincidence that when people stopped using leaded gasoline, lead levels in the blood of young children dropped by 85 percent.

Today, kids can still be exposed to lead. How? Lead was a common ingredient in household paint until 1978. If you live in a house that was built before 1978, it may very well contain lead paint and lead dust. Lead paint is a problem if it is peeling, chipping, or cracking. Lead dust is created when lead paint is sanded, scraped, or rubbed. Little children can get lead dust on their hands by touching objects where lead dust has gathered and then put their hands in their mouths. Children can also eat peeling paint and paint chips.

Step out your front door and lead may also still be lurking in the soil near repair shops, abandoned mines, factories, and highways. Even your drinking water may contain lead.

One- to three-year old kids are especially at risk of lead poisoning. Their brains are still developing and may be damaged by lead in their bodies. So, watch your younger brothers and sisters closely if you live in an older home that might contain lead.

Exercise your mind and learn more about lead, lead poisoning, and ways to prevent it.

  1. If your home was built before 1978, ask an adult to test your home for lead paint hazards.
  2. Wash your hands often and always before eating and sleeping.
  3. Thirsty? Run cold water until it is as cold as it can get. You may need to run the water longer depending on where you live.
  4. Make sure you and your brothers and sisters eat foods rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C:
    • Calcium-rich foods: milk, yogurt, cheese, spinach
    • Iron-rich foods: lean red meat, chicken, fish, raisins
    • Vitamin C-rich foods: oranges, orange juice, grapefruits
  5. Reduce fatty foods. Foods high in fat tend to absorb more lead.

Invite a doctor or local health care expert to talk about lead poisoning at your next club meeting or at school. To find an expert, ask your parents or youth group leader for help. Before you call, draft a short script saying what you’d like to achieve by having him or her visit with your group.

Call your local and state health departments (or department of environmental quality) for information about testing daycare centers and schools for lead-based paint and lead in drinking water, soil, and dust. Check the phone book to find phone numbers of these agencies.

Create a poster for your school or community center that warns about the dangers of lead poisoning. Work with local volunteer groups to "Get the word out...Get the lead out!" by handing out your posters and organizing door-to-door campaigns and youth group activities. When handing out posters or working on door-to-door campaigns, always go with a parent, group leader, or environmental expert.

List groups in your community that may want to participate in lead safety activities.

Write and place an article in your school or group newspaper about lead. As you write, make sure you focus on why people should be interested in this topic and what they should do about it.


For more information and free posters and materials on lead from EPA, call 1–800–424–LEAD or check out EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/lead.

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