Lead Poisoning in Children: How Does It Happen and How Can I Prevent It?
Updated: Jun 11
Esther Hur & Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE
Lead poisoning is the number one environmental poison for children in New York State. Lead is a toxic material that was historically used in paint, plumbing pipes, solder joints, and service lines before limits were set in 1986. However, metal accumulation, corrosion of old lead-based pipes and solders, lead-based paint, and lead service lines can still lead to lead entering your home through water, air, and soil.
What is lead anyway?
Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can cause irreparable harm to one’s brain, especially to infants’ brains, causing them lifelong behavioral, physical, and neurological impairment.
How can my home allow for lead exposure?
The most widespread and dangerous high-dose source of lead exposure is lead-based paint. Contaminated dust, chipping, and soil from lead-based house paint can allow for lead poisoning and can be extremely dangerous. Before it was banned in household paints in 1978, lead was a common ingredient in paints applied to both the interior and exterior of homes. If your home was built before 1978, it is likely to contain at least some lead-based paint.
Lead can enter drinking water from lead pipes, lead-based solder on pipes, and corroding metals like brass. Even if you get your water from a well, lead may be present due to absorption by the presence and accumulation of metals like iron or manganese onto pipe walls.
Lead can also be present in the soil as lead-based paint on the exterior of buildings chip, peel, or dust off.
How can my children be affected by lead?
Lead can harm a young child's growth, behavior, ability to learn and can also cause anemia, kidney damage, and hearing loss. Even small amounts can cause many health problems, including harming your child’s ability to learn and read, attention deficits, hyperactivity, and neurological impairment. Therefore, their chances of swallowing lead dust, paint chips, toys, and soil that may contain lead are very high.
What is the main source of lead exposure in children?
The main source of lead exposure in children is lead-based house paint and contaminated dust it generates when the paint peels, chips, or is disturbed. Although lead-based paint was banned by the federal government and NYS decades ago, many homes contain old lead paint which remains dangerous and toxic.
What can I do to protect my child from lead?
Fortunately, lead-contaminated sites can be remediated and restored.
You can take these measures to ensure you and your family’s safety:
Wash hands and toys often, especially after playtime
Mop floors often and use damp cloths to clean windowsills
Reach out to a certified testing center to take dust, paint, and/or water samples to ensure community safety
Ask your landlord or realtor about lead in the building before renting or buying
Avoid purchasing products like jewelry or furniture and toys that contain lead
Let tap water run for 1 minute before use to clear out lead
Keep children away from peeling paint and windowsills
Use only cold water for cooking and food preparation since lead dissolves easily into hot water
Eat foods high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C can help prevent lead poisoning
If your home was built before 1978, these measures are especially recommended to follow.
What are health care providers doing to prevent lead poisoning?
New York State Public Health Law and Regulations require health care providers to:
Obtain a blood lead level test for all children at age 1 and again at age 2
Assess all children aged 6 months to 6 years for risk of lead exposure annually as part of routine care and obtain a blood lead level test on children found to be at risk
Take follow-up testing measures and medical management if a child has an elevated lead level
Provide anticipatory lead exposure prevention guidance to all parents of children under 6
How can BNF Consulting help with lead poisoning problems?
BNF Consulting offers many services to test for leads in residential and commercial buildings. BNF Consulting offers lead paint chip testing, lead dust testing, lead water testing, and lead soil testing done by professional, certified inspectors.
If you are concerned for your child’s safety or curious about lead exposure in your home, schedule a free call with us today at 914-297-8335 to learn more about our lead testing services. We also offer a free phone/video consultation.
BNF Consulting, Inc. is a US EPA and NY lead risk assessment company that is qualified to inspect your home, office building, or healthcare facility. In an initial mold inspection, we conduct a visual analysis, moisture survey, and mold sampling. If mold is detected, we are also licensed to perform safe and effective remediation of the mold according to US EPA regulations. Call us today at 914-297-8335 for a free consultation!
Esther Hur: Computer science in Binghamton University, BNF Consulting internship program participant.
Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE, is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a principal consultant of BNF Consulting, Inc. Dr. Joe graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with PhD and MS degrees in nuclear engineering. Dr. Joe has provided industrial hygiene consulting as a core function with his diverse background of experience and education. _________________________________________________________________________