Take Action on Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
October 24-30 is Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch (CLPPB) invites you to join us in bringing awareness to this illness by learning more about lead sources, prevention tips, and getting your child tested.
Many people think that lead poisoning is no longer a problem, but it is still one of the most common environmental illnesses in children. Luckily, lead poisoning is completely preventable. Simple steps, such as washing hands, dusting with a wet cloth, covering bare dirt in the yard, and feeding children healthy meals and snacks can reduce the risk of lead exposure.
There is no known safe level of lead in the body, and even small amounts of lead can harm a child’s brain and cause learning, attention, and behavioral difficulties. Children who have lead poisoning often do not look or act sick; therefore, the only way to know if a child is lead poisoned is through a blood lead test. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children missed their regular checkups and blood lead tests. It is now especially important to schedule well-child visits and get back on track with tests and vaccines that may have been missed due to the pandemic. For resources related to COVID-19 and lead poisoning prevention, please visit CLPPB’s COVID resources web page.
Children can be exposed to lead by ingesting lead-contaminated dust, including lead dust brought home on parents’ work clothes; paint chips from chipped or peeling lead-based paint; and lead-contaminated soil. Other potential sources of lead include certain imported or antique ceramic pottery, painted objects, traditional home remedies, traditional cosmetics, imported spices, candies, and other food products. Some activities that involve lead products and can put children at risk include soldering, making stained glass, and handling lead bullets or fishing sinkers.
Washing children’s hands, especially before eating and sleeping, and keeping the home clean and dust-free are some of the best ways to reduce lead exposure. Feeding children healthy meals and snacks can also reduce the amount of lead that is absorbed into their bodies. Choosing a variety of foods, especially those containing iron (e.g., chicken, eggs, beans, kale), calcium (e.g., milk, yogurt, spinach, corn tortillas), and vitamin C (e.g., oranges, tomatoes, berries, broccoli) are especially important.
Children enrolled in publicly funded programs, such as Medi-Cal or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and children who live or spend time in homes built before 1978 (when lead-based house paint was severely restricted) that have chipped or peeling paint or have been recently remodeled are considered at highest-risk of lead poisoning. If you think your child might be at risk of lead poisoning, ask your child’s doctor about a blood lead test. At-risk children should get tested for lead at one and two years of age and receive catch-up testing up to age six if they were not tested at one and two years.
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to learn more about how to prevent childhood lead poisoning. Please visit CLPPB’s website at www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CLPPB for more information. For Lead Week 2021 events and resources, please visit CLPPB’s Lead Week 2021 Resource web page.