Lead is a metal that has been used for thousands of years in many products and is still in widespread use today. Being exposed to too much lead can cause serious health problems. However, lead poisoning can be prevented.
Lead enters a child's body each time they breathe in fumes or dust, or swallow something that has lead in it. Exposure may come from lead in air, food and drinking water, as well as "take-home lead" from an adult's job or hobby. The most common source of childhood lead exposure is from paint made before 1978 that is in poor condition, that is, peeling and flaking. Paint made before 1950 may have very high levels of lead.
Children under six years of age who spend time in homes built before 1978 - with chipping or peeling paint-are at greatest risk of lead poisoning. Adults who work with lead on the job can bring lead home on their clothes and expose their children. Children on assistance programs and more likely to live in older buildings are at higher risk for lead poisoning and should be tested.
Possible effects of lead poisoning are: lowered intelligence, decreased coordination, shortened attention span, aggressive behavior, reading difficulties and other disabilities.
There are no symptoms of lead poisoning until the child is very sick. Even if your child has received a blood lead test at one time, all children ages three through six should receive a yearly review for lead risks. The only way to know if you or your child has been exposed to lead is to have a blood lead test done.
If your child is exposed to small amounts of lead, the body will get rid of it naturally. However, a child's body does not rid itself of lead as well as an adult's body and some lead that enters the body is stored in the bones for a long time. If the child's residence (home/daycare, etc.) was built prior to 1978, is being remodeled-or if the child moved to a home built prior to 1950-the child should be tested again to make sure that there is no new lead exposure.
You can get your child tested for lead at your medical clinic as part of a Childhood and Teen Checkup, well child exam or sick visit.
Your local public health office has information about how to keep your child lead-safe.
Your physician can test your child for blood lead with either a finger stick or blood from a vein. If the test results are normal, no follow-up will be needed. If your child has a blood lead level above the state and federal guidelines, the local public health office will contact you with information on how to lower your child's blood lead level. If your child is lead poisoned, the state or local public health office will visit your home to locate the source of lead. Less than one percent of all children tested have blood lead levels high enough to require this. However, it is important that all sources of lead be found and removed or neutralized.
(651) 201-4610 or 1 (800) 657-3908;
Minnesota Department of Health TTY (651) 201-5797
MN Relay Service TTY 1-800-627-3529