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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts.
Information for Parents and Caregivers
How do I know if my child has lead poisoning?
- There are often no signs or symptoms.
- Children can have lead poisoning and not look or act sick.
What are the health effects of lead poisoning?
- In children, even low levels of lead exposure can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, and cause behavior and learning problems.
- Very high levels of lead in children can cause seizures, coma, and even death.
- Even a child that may seem healthy can have a high level of lead in their body.
- Lead is more dangerous to children for several reasons:
- Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them.
- A child's growing bodies absorbs more lead than an adult.
- A child's brain and nervous system are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
- Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause well-documented adverse effects such as:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Slowed growth and development
- Learning and behavior problems
- Hearing and speech problems
- There are often no signs or symptoms, but may include following:
- Weight loss
- Malaise (feeling unwell)
- Hearing loss
- Abdominal pain
- Lethargy (feeling tired)
- Loss of appetite
When should my child be tested for lead?
- Lead poisoning levels peak in children between the ages of 12 and 36 months of age.
- Medicaid eligible children are required to be tested at 12 and 24 months of age and between 36 and 72 months if not previously tested.
- Other children should be tested at that same frequency if they have certain risk factors.
- Lead testing is not part of a routine pediatric check-up. Parents should ask their provider to test their child's blood for lead.
What are the sources of lead exposure? How can I prevent/reduce exposure?
- The federal government banned lead-based paint from use in housing in 1978, but many homes and apartments built before 1978 still contain lead-based paint.
- Lead-based paint can be found inside and outside of single family homes, apartments, and both public and private housing built before 1978. It can also be found in homes that are in the city, country, or suburbs.
- Dust from lead-based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning for children in the United States.
- Home renovation and repair activities that disturb lead-based paint can put children at risk for exposure to hazardous lead dust if not done properly.
Ways to Prevent Lead-Based Paint Exposure:
- Determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child spends a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare). In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise.
- Consider testing your home for lead-based paint and dust by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified lead risk assessor or inspector. A list of Environmental Protection Ageny (EPA) certified lead risk assessors and inspectors in Florida can be found on the EPA Region 4 Lead Website.
- Make sure your child does not have access to chipping, peeling, or chalking paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint. Wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components regularly. Because household dust is a major source of lead, parents should wet-mop floors and wet-wipe flat surfaces with a disposable cloth or paper towel every 2-3 weeks. Windowsills and wells can contain high levels of dust from lead-based paint. They should be kept clean. If possible, windows should be shut to prevent abrasion of painted surfaces or opened from the top sash.
- Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources. Parents should clean and isolate all sources of lead. They should close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls. You can also apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or to block a child's access to other sources of lead, such as a window sill.
- Children and pregnant women should not be present during renovations in housing built before 1978. They should not participate in activities that disturb old paint or in cleaning up paint debris after work is completed.
- If you are considering renovation or repair work on your pre-1978 home, see the EPA's flyer Lead-Safe Guide to Renovate Right. En Español
- Children playing in the yard of a home can ingest or inhale lead dust from contaminated soil.
- Soil can contain lead from exterior paint.
- Soil may be contaminated with lead from the past use of leaded gas in cars.
Ways to Prevent Lead Exposure from Soil:
- Regularly wash children's hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources.
- Prevent children from playing in bare soil. Parents should plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips, if possible. Until the bare soil is covered, parents should move play areas away from bare soil and away from the sides of the house. If using a sandbox, parents should cover the box when not in use.
- Remove your shoes at the door. Shoes can track in dust and dirt from outside that may be contaminated with lead.
- Plumbing may have lead or lead solder which can contaminate your water.
- You cannot see, smell, or taste lead. Boiling your water will not get rid of lead.
- Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water for lead.
If you are concerned about lead in water or know that your plumbing contains lead, you can take action to reduce the amount of lead in your drinking water and minimize your potential for exposure.
- Use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and for making baby formula.
- Water that comes out of the tap warm or hot can have higher levels of lead. Boiling this water will not reduce the amount of lead in your water.
Jobs and Hobbies
- Work and hobby sites where lead is used have lead dust. Individuals can bring it home on their hands or clothes.
- Some hobbies that use lead include making pottery, stained glass, jewelry making, refinishing furniture, and home repair. There are other hobbies that use lead.
- Some jobs that involve lead include battery recycling or manufacturing, smelting or welding, heating/air conditioning or ventilation maintenance, auto/radiator repair, and bridge painting. There are other jobs that use lead.
Ways to reduce lead exposure from jobs and hobbies:
- Avoid taking lead dust home from work or hobby sites.Household members who come in contact with lead through work or a hobby should change clothes and shower after finishing a task that involves lead-based products. Wash work clothes separately from the rest of your family's laundry.
- Some painted toys and old furniture contain lead.
- Traditional home remedies, imported candies, and some cookware may also contain lead.
Ways to reduce lead exposure from Consumer Products:
- Avoid eating candies imported from Mexico
- Avoid using containers, cookware, or tableware that are not been shown to be lead free.
- Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry from children immediately.
- If you are concerned that a product you own may contain lead, you can have it tested.
- Laboratory testing is the most accurate method for determining if a product has lead. Use the internet or phone book to find a laboratory in your area.
- In-home testing kits are also available at local hardware stores. Be aware that these kits only test the surface for lead and are not considered the most reliable method for determining the presence or absence of lead in a product.
Foods and Liquids Stored In Lead Crystal or Lead-Glazed Pottery or Porcelain
- Food may become contaminated when lead leaches from these containers.
- Avoid using containers, cookware, or tableware that has not been shown to be lead free.
Traditional or Folk Remedies
- Some traditional or folk remedies contain lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon". These items are sometimes used to treat an upset stomach.
- Avoid using traditional home remedies and cosmetics that may contain lead.
How Can I Prevent/Reduce Lead Absorption?
- Provide a diet high in vitamin C, calcium, and iron. This includes foods such as fruits, cheese, milk, lean meat, nuts, dried beans and peas, raisins and prunes.
- Breastfeed your baby. Even if you have been exposed to lead, it is usually ok to breastfeed. Discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Where can I find more information?
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Need additional information?
Florida defers to federal EPA rules regarding lead-based paint practices and certification requirements. If you have additional lead questions please go to https://www2.epa.gov/lead or call the National Lead Information Center at 1 (800) 424-LEAD (5323).