Why should I be concerned about lead?

Prior to 1950, paint contained as much as 50 percent lead. An estimated 57 million homes in the United States have some lead…

Why should I be concerned about lead?

Prior to 1950, paint contained as much as 50 percent lead. An estimated 57 million homes in the United States have some lead paint.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified lead poisoning as one of the most common toxicological hazards facing young children in the United States.

1 out of every 11 children in the United States has dangerous levels of lead in the bloodstream.

The EPA states that “in the fetus and young children, elevated lead may damage the brain, resulting in persistent neurological dysfunction.”

“Lead paint in older housing is the principal source of lead exposure today.” EPA

According to the EPA, drinking water can be a significant source of lead exposure in some homes and buildings.

Lead accumulates in the body and its effects are irreversible. Although much of the attention has been placed on the heath and developmental effects on children, lead can cause health issues for adults as well.

What is lead and what are the sources?

Lead is a metallic element that was commonly used in the manufacturing of paint, pipes, crystal, gasoline and various other products. The most common source of lead in the home is in the form of paint. The use of lead in paint was banned in 1978.

It is important to note that lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a health hazard. It is only when the paint is chipping, peeling, or is being manually disturbed, such as with a renovation project, that lead paint may be inhaled or swallowed.

If you are concerned that your home may contain lead hazards, contact your local lead poisoning prevention program for more information or call 1-800-424-LEAD for a list of contacts in your area.

By the way, there is no lead in a “lead” pencil.

How do I know if my children have been exposed to lead?

Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age. Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are usually recommended for:

Children ages 1 and 2.

Children or other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead.

Children who should be tested under your state or local health screening plan.

Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing is needed.

What are the health effects of exposure?

Lead is more dangerous to children than adults because:

Children’s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

Children’s growing bodies absorb more lead.

Babies and young children can have a higher level of exposure to lead due to putting objects in their mouths which may have lead dust on them.

Below are some, but not all, of the health effects in children:

  • Damage to brain and nervous system
  • Behavior and learning disorders, such as hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Headaches

Health effects suffered by adults can include:

  • Reproductive problems in both men and women
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain


I’m interested in buying a home built in 1976. How do I determine if lead is a problem?

To protect families from exposure to lead from paint, dust, and soil, Congress passed the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X. Section 1018 of this law requires the disclosure of known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before the sale or lease of most housing built before 1978.

Before a sale or leasing contract can be considered valid, the seller or landlord has the following responsibilities:

Disclose known lead-based paint

Disclose lead-based paint hazards and provide available reports

Provide the pamphlet “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” developed by the EPA, HUD, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Allow a 10-day lead-based paint inspection and risk assessment period. The expense of these inspections will be the purchasers obligation unless otherwise negotiated.

The sales contract or leasing agreement must include certain notification and disclosure language

Title X does not require any testing or removal of lead-based paint by the seller or landlord. Nor does this law invalidate leasing and sales contracts.

What does nutrition have to do with the health effects of lead?

A nutritious, low-fat diet which is high in iron and calcium slows the rate lead is absorbed into the blood.


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