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Lead Testing

Lead can be found throughout a child’s environment, especially in soil and paint chips. No safe level of lead exposure in children has been identified. 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
  • This can cause:
  • Lower IQ
  • Decreased ability to pay attention
  • Underperformance in school
  • There is also evidence that childhood exposure to lead can cause long-term harm

The good news is that childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable.

CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is working across government programs to teach healthcare providers, parents, educators and others how to track developmental milestones in children under five who have documented lead exposure―and how to act early if there is a concern.

Sources of Lead

Lead can be found throughout a child’s environment:

  • Homes built before 1978 probably contain lead-based paint. When the paint peels and cracks, it makes lead dust. Children can be poisoned when they swallow or breathe in lead dust
  • Certain water pipes may contain lead
  • Some toys and jewelry
  • Candies imported from other countries or traditional home remedies.
  • Certain jobs and hobbies involve working with lead-based products, like stain glass work, and may cause parents to bring lead into the home
  • Children who live near airports may be exposed to lead in air and soil from aviation gas

Lead Poisoning Prevention

The goal is to prevent childhood lead exposure before any harm occurs:

  • Primary prevention – Remove lead hazards before a child is exposed. This is the best way to make sure that children are not exposed to harmful lead.
  • Secondary prevention – is blood lead testing and follow-up. This is to ensure that children have not been exposed to lead. It will also alert your doctor if your child has been exposed to lead and needs treatment.

Blood Lead Test

A blood test is the best readily available way to measure exposure to lead. The amount of lead in blood is referred to as blood lead level which is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dL).

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The good news is that childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable.

Learn more about Maryland’s lead prevention program.