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What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning is the most common chronic poisoning and environmental illness in the United States. Lead poisoning is the elevation of the lead in the body. It may cause damage to the brain and nervous system resulting in behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth and hearing problems. Even low levels of lead in the blood have been linked to lower IQ levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined an Elevated Blood Lead Level (EBL) as a level higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL). In 2007, the Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council adopted a local action level of 5 µg/dL.

Where does lead come from?

Even though lead paint is no longer used in homes, it can be found on many painted surfaces.  Most homes built before 1978 have some lead paint in them. Lead is most often found on windows, trim, doors, railings, columns, porches and the outside of older homes. When a painted surface starts to flake, crack or chip, it makes a dust. This dust may have lead in it. Lead dust will get onto the floors, window sills, in dirt and in other places too. Sometimes, a small amount of lead can also be found in drinking water.

Where are lead hazards most often found in homes?

The most common areas are window wells, porch floors, porch railings, and bare dirt.

Who is most at risk for lead poisoning?

Young children less than 6 years of age are most at risk. The Greater Cleveland area represents the largest population concentration (1.4 million) and some of the oldest housing stock in the State of Ohio. The City of Cleveland and those communities sharing a border with Cleveland represent the populations with the highest risk of lead poisoning. As high as 1 in every 4 children under the age of 6, living in select neighborhoods, have been documented with elevated blood lead levels. A list of high risk zip codes is available on the Healthy Homes & Lead Poisoning Downloads page of the website.

How does lead get inside a child’s body?

The main way a child gets lead in their body is through hand to mouth behavior. Most children will play on the floor, porch or ground outside. When paint starts to wear down it makes a dust. The lead dust from the old paint gets onto their hands or toys. The children put their hands or toys in their mouths and swallow the lead dust that might be on their hands or toys. Children also can breathe in the lead dust when the old paint starts to flake, crack or chip. Some children may eat paint chips.

How can I tell if my child has lead poisoning?

Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. The only way you will be able to tell if your child has lead poisoning is by a blood test.

How do I know if my child should be tested for lead?

Your child should be tested at least once a year until age 6 and children with special needs, especially those who put things into their mouths or have pica (eat things that are not food like paper, plastic or dirt) may need to be tested beyond age 6.

**If you answer YES to any of these questions, your child should be tested for lead–ITS THE LAW!

  • Are you a Medicaid, Healthy Families, or Healthy Start user?
  • Do you live in a high risk zip code? (A list is available on the Healthy Homes & Lead Poisoning Downloads page of the website)
  • Does the child live in or regularly visit a house built before 1950? This includes a day care center, preschool, or home of a baby sitter or relative?
  • Does the child live in or visit a house that has peeling, chipping, dusting or chalking paint?
  • Does the child live in or visit a house built before 1978 with recent, ongoing, or planned remodeling?
  • Does the child have a brother, sister or playmate who has lead poisoning?
  • Does the child come in contact with an adult who has a hobby like fishing or hunting or works with lead? (Construction, welding, pottery, painting and casting fishing sinkers or ammunition)?