What are the health effects of lead on children?

Lead in children, even at low levels, can affect their developing brain and nervous system. This may result in decreased academic achievement and IQ, increased risk of attention-related and problem behaviors, and decreased hearing. Lead can also effect a child’s growth.

How are most children in Chicago exposed to lead?

In Chicago, children are most likely to be exposed to lead while living or staying in older homes or apartments that have lead paint. Most homes built before 1978 (when lead paint was banned in the U.S.) have some lead paint on the inside and outside of the building. When old paint cracks and peels, it makes lead dust. Lead dust is so small you cannot see it or smell it. Children may get lead poisoning from swallowing or breathing in lead dust on their hands and toys.

What are other ways children can be exposed to lead?

Lead can also be found in soil, water, pots, containers, candy, folk medicine, cosmetics made in other countries, and some toys and toy jewelry. For up-to-date information on recalls of toys and other products that contain lead you can check http://www.cpsc.gov.

Who is at greatest risk of lead poisoning in Chicago?

We worry most about young children (especially ages 0-3, but up to age 6) both because their brains are developing rapidly and because they are more likely to put their hands and objects contaminated with lead dust into their mouths. Children who live in older, poorly maintained homes or apartments or who have parents who are exposed to lead at work or through other activities are also at increased risk for lead poisoning.

How do I know if my child has lead poisoning?

A simple blood test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick.

Are there any foods that help prevent lead poisoning?

Giving your child healthy foods is important for healthy development and is also helpful for preventing lead poisoning. Foods with calcium, iron, and Vitamin C can help keep lead out of the body. Calcium is in milk, yogurt, cheese, and leafy green vegetables like spinach. Iron is in red meats, beans, peanut butter, and cereals. Vitamin C is in oranges, green and red peppers, and juice. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about this.

What else can I do to protect my child from lead exposure inside my home?

Household dust is a major source of lead. Windowsills and window wells, in particular, can contain a lot of leaded dust. Clean your home weekly. Use a solution of water and cleaner to wet-mop floors and to wipe windowsills and other surfaces. Don’t reuse cloths or sponges on dishes or counters. Don’t dry-dust, sweep, or vacuum as these activities can spread lead dust. Remove shoes prior to entering the home. Wash hands and toys often with soap and water and always wash hands before eating and sleeping. When possible, windows should be shut to prevent abrasion of painted surfaces. In addition, parents who work in auto repair, construction, or plumbing, or who make stained glass or use firing ranges can carry lead dust on themselves, so they should shower and change clothes before interacting with young children.

Is there any financial assistance available to fix lead hazards in my home or apartment?

Yes. CDPH has a program available that can provide financial assistance to fix lead hazards. For more information, please call (312) 747-LEAD (5323).

For additional information visit: https://www.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead#lower or http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/