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Protect Your Family from Lead Poisoning

toddler playing with toys

The Basics

Take steps to protect your family from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing lead.

Who is at risk for lead poisoning?
Children under age 6 and pregnant women are most at risk.

  • When children are young, their bodies are still growing and are more sensitive to the harmful effects of lead.
  • If a pregnant woman has too much lead in her body, it can increase her risk for miscarriage (losing the baby). Lead can also pass from the mother to her baby.

There are no signs or symptoms of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can lead to learning and behavior problems. Some of the effects of lead poisoning may never go away.

How do kids get lead poisoning?
Most lead poisoning comes from paint in homes built before 1978. When old paint cracks and chips, it creates lead dust. Children get lead poisoning from swallowing dust on their hands and toys.

Keep your family safe from lead.
Take these steps to keep your family safe [PDF - 674 KB]:

  • Keep kids and pregnant women away from chipping or peeling lead paint.
  • Wash your child’s hands and toys often.
  • If you live in an older home, have your home tested for lead paint.
  • Ask a doctor to test your child for lead.

To learn more about preventing lead poisoning:

Take Action!

You can help protect your family from lead poisoning by taking these simple steps.

Keep children away from lead dust.
If you live in an older home, treat all paint as if it has lead in it. Follow these tips to keep kids safe.

  • Keep children away from rooms with chipping or peeling paint.
  • Cover peeling or chipping paint with duct tape or contact paper.
  • Use a wet paper towel or mop to clean up dust regularly, especially around windows and floors.

Renovate safely.
If you are doing any home remodeling or repairs, be sure to follow lead-safe work practices [PDF - 3 MB]. Keep pregnant women and children away from the work area.

Wash your child’s hands and toys.
Lead dust from chipping and peeling paint can get on children’s toys and hands. Wash toys and hands often, especially before eating and sleeping. Play this podcast on Happy Handwashing for your child.

Test your home for lead.
If you live in a home built before 1978, have your home inspected (tested) for lead paint by a licensed lead inspector.

For more information, contact your state’s Healthy Homes program. The Healthy Homes program may be able to inspect your home for lead at no cost to you.

What if I rent my home?
Ask your landlord to have your home tested for lead. Your local health department can give you information about your landlord’s responsibilities.

Test your child for lead.
There are no signs or symptoms of lead poisoning. A lead test is the only way to know for sure if your child has lead poisoning.

A lead test measures the amount of lead in your child’s blood. If you are worried about lead poisoning, ask your child’s doctor or nurse to test your child for lead.

What about cost?
Medicaid covers lead screening for children at ages 12 and 24 months.

For families with private insurance, lead screening for children at high risk of exposure to lead is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

Learn how to look for signs of speech or language delay.

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Content last updated on: August 23, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133