LEAD POISONING PREVENTION GUIDANCE
Vermont Health – Children who have lead poisoning don’t look or act sick. But lead can cause serious health problems.
Children can get lead poisoning in their own home, apartment, or day care. Lead is found in buildings built before 1978 and can also come from work or hobbies—such as auto body work, painting or scraping paint, making stained glass, or casting lead toys, sinkers, or shots.
Young children are commonly exposed to lead by swallowing it. Children may eat, chew, or suck on lead-painted objects—such as windowsills, toys, or furniture. Over time, lead paint on surfaces crumbles into invisible dust—especially from opening and closing doors and windows—that contaminates homes and soil. Even if the home has been repainted since 1978, the opening and closing of doors and windows can release lead dust from the original lead paint. Lead dust or soil clings to hands, toys, and objects that children put in their mouths. Young children are at highest risk because their developing bodies absorb lead more easily.
Adults who work jobs that involve lead—such as painting, plumbing, metal production, building renovation, demolition, bridge work, or battery manufacturing, are at risk of lead poisoning. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)(link is external) or Vermont OSHA(link is external) have more information on occupational exposure to lead. Workers can also bring lead home on shoes and work clothes, which places family members at risk of lead exposure. Find out how you can prevent take-home lead exposure(link is external).
Lead poisoning can be prevented—as long as you know what hazards to look for.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF LEAD POISONING
There is no safe level of lead in the body. Lead can harm anyone, but young children and pregnant women are at special risk. The harm done by lead may never go away. Too much lead in the body, or lead poisoning, in children can:
- Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
- Slow down growth and development
- Make it hard to learn
- Damage hearing and speech
- Cause behavior problems
In pregnant women, lead can increase the risk of miscarriage and cause babies to be born too early, too small, or with learning or behavior problems. In adults, lead can cause high blood pressure and result in decreased fertility in men.
BLOOD LEAD TESTING
All children should be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2. Talk to your child’s health care provider about testing your child for lead poisoning.
The only way to find out if someone has been exposed to too much lead is by a blood test.
The Health Department recommends that all children be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2. Depending on the result of that test, your child’s health care provider may recommend additional testing.
If you are an adult who works with lead, we recommend that you get a blood test to learn how much lead is in your bloodstream and that you discuss the results with your health care provider.
For additional information or to report a high blood lead level, call the Healthy Homes Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 802-863-7220 or 800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont).