Lead Poisoning Information for Parents
Common sources of childhood lead poisoning include:
- Eating lead paint chips and soil
- Breathing in lead-contaminated dust.
- Drinking water contaminated by lead-based pipes
- Chewing on toys or furniture covered in lead paint
- Eating food prepared in imported pottery, or eating imported spices or candy contaminated with lead
- Using eye make-up, like Kohl, Kajal, or Surma, that is contaminated with lead.
- Using folk medicines, like Greta and Azarcon, that are contaminated with lead.
Know the signs of elevated blood lead levels
Signs of lead poisoning are hard to see. But lead is harmful and can cause:
- Lowered IQ and learning problems.
- Trouble concentrating and behavioral problems.
- Anemia (a disease caused by low iron levels), which can result in tiredness, shortness of breath, and difficulty paying attention.
- In adulthood, children who were exposed to lead are more likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease.
Request a blood test
The only way to know if your child is exposed to lead is by getting a blood test. Ask your child’s pediatrician to test your child’s blood for lead. Read the 5 reasons for testing your child for lead here.
- Children ages 6 months to 6 years of age should be tested for lead, especially if living in a home that was built before 1978.
- Proof of lead testing or screening must be provided before admission to childcare, preschool or kindergarten.
- Many providers screen for lead when children are 12 and 24 months of age.
- At those appointments, a medical provider should give your child a blood lead test if you live in a ZIP Code that is at high risk for lead.
- If you don’t live in a high-risk ZIP Code, medical providers should give you this screening questionnaire to fill out. If you answer yes to any question, your child should get a blood lead test.
In suburban Cook County, CCDPH will visit any children with blood test results of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) and higher. We will provide an in-home inspection to determine if there is lead-based paint present, and a home visit by a public health nurse. Learn more about CCDPH Lead Poisoning Prevention services here.
Protect your child from exposure to lead hazards
One of the easiest ways to prevent childhood lead poisoning is to get rid of lead dust and paint chips. Lead dust and chips can only come from lead-based paint. Lead-based paint was banned from household use in 1978, so only homes built before then are at risk for lead paint hazards. If you are not sure of the age of your home, visit the Cook County Assessor’s website. Enter your address on the “Property Search” page to find the age of your home.
If you live in a home that was built before 1978 and/or suspect your home has lead-based paint:
- If you rent, inform your landlord or property management company of any peeling or chipping paint.
- Keep children away from peeling paint and/or avoid putting paint chips in their mouth
- Wipe windowsills and window wells with soap and water to remove lead dust and paint chips. Do this often to prevent chips and dust from piling up.
- Keep children’s play area clean and dust-free.
- Wash all toys, pacifiers, and bottles often, and after they fall to the floor.
- Wash all blankets, sheets, rugs, and curtains often, especially any that young children play on when they play on the floor
- Teach and practice hand-washing. Have children wash their hands for 20 seconds after playing outside, before eating and before bedtime.
- Take off your shoes when entering your home to keep dust out.
- Wash the floor often with a damp mop to clean up dust that can blow onto the floor from the open window.
- Wash blankets often, especially any that young children play on when they play on the floor.
- Check for product recalls due to lead concerns on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Prepare and eat healthy meals/snacks
Children with empty stomachs absorb more lead than children with full stomachs. Provide your child with four to six small meals during the day. The following nutrients can help protect your child from lead poisoning:
- Vitamin C
- Small snacks between meals
For more information on lead poisoning prevention and making a healthy home, please contact the Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Unit at 312-515-0366.More Lead Services & Resources
Updated October 26, 2023, 11:48 AM