Keep the lead out!

Learn about the threat of lead poisoning in your neighborhood

The threat of lead poisoning is real in Washington state, especially in older homes. This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, and it’s a great time to learn how to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of lead. You can even check out the threat of lead poisoning in your neighborhood on our Washington Tracking Network site.

Children younger than 6 are most at risk from lead poisoning. Learn how to keep your family safe from lead poisoning.

Risk

Lead occurs naturally in the environment. You can find it in the air, soil, water, and even our homes. It can cause health risks for both children and adults.

Children under age 7 are at the most risk from serious but preventable threats of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning in children causes learning and behavior problems. It also delays physical growth and mental development.

Lead poisoning in adults can increase blood pressure and cause kidney and reproductive problems in both men and women. In pregnant women, lead can also pass from the mother to her unborn baby.

In rare cases, lead poisoning can cause seizures, coma, and death.

A blood test is available to measure the amount of lead in your blood and to estimate the amount of exposure to lead. Apple Health requires testing at 12 and 24 months for enrolled children. Learn more about testing children for lead.

Exposure

Lead-based paint and lead dust are the main sources of lead poisoning. Most homes built before 1978 probably contain lead-based paint.

Other sources can include soil, drinking water, toys, jewelry, workplace and hobby materials, imported spices, and traditional home remedies and cosmetics.

Lead enters babies’ and children’s bodies by:

  • Breathing or swallowing lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil.
  • Putting hands and other objects with lead dust into their mouths.
  • Eating and drinking food or water with lead.
  • Using dishes or glasses containing lead.
  • Playing with toys with lead paint.

Lead enters adult bodies by:

  • Breathing lead dust in areas where lead-based paint is wearing down, and during renovation or repair work that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes and buildings.
  • Eating and drinking food or water with lead.
  • Using dishes or glasses containing lead.
  • Working in a job or engaging in hobbies with lead materials, such as battery manufacturing, fishing, or shooting with lead-based ammunition.

Prevention

Good news! Lead poisoning is preventable. Here are some steps you can take to lower the chances of lead exposure in your home:

  • Keep your home clean and dust-free.
  • Inspect and maintain all painted surfaces. When old paint cracks and peels, it makes dangerous dust.
  • Clean painted areas where friction can generate dust, such as doors, windows, and drawers with a wet sponge or rag.
  • Remodel, repair, and paint old homes safely. Sanding or scraping paint can create lead dust. Make sure contractors are Lead-Safe Certified. Review the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead renovation, repair, and painting rules.
  • Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
  • Learn how to reduce lead exposure in drinking water.
  • Eat well-balanced meals with calcium, iron, and vitamin C. Children with healthy diets absorb less lead. The EPA offers tips on fighting Lead Poisoning with a Healthy Diet (PDF).
  • Remove shoes and wash hands after working or playing outdoors to avoid bringing in soil that may contain lead.
  • If you’re exposed to lead at work, don’t bring it home. Use separate work clothes and shoes. Shower before coming home or as soon as you get home. Put dirty work clothes in a plastic bag and wash them separately from other clothes.
  • If you have a hobby that exposes you to lead, don’t contaminate your home. Keep children and pregnant women out of the area.
  • Review toys and jewelry products recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Avoid using home, folk, or traditional remedies and cosmetics containing lead (not using products with cultural or religious significance can be difficult; ask your doctor what’s best for your family) like: Greta, Azarcon, Ghasard, Ba-baw-san, Sindoor and Kohl (also called surma or kajal).
  • Avoid using imported pottery, dishware, and ceramics for food and drinks if unsure whether it contains lead.

See other resources for fighting lead poisoning on our website.

More Information

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles. For more information from the Washington State Department of Health, visit doh.wa.gov.

Questions about COVID-19? Visit our COVID-19 website to learn more about vaccines and booster doses, testing, WA Notify, and more. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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