Frequently Asked Questions
- What is lead?
- What is lead poisoning?
- How do children get lead poisoning?
- Which items can cause child lead poisoning?
- How does lead harm a child?
- Can lead poisoning be treated?
- Is my child in danger of lead poisoning?
- Wouldn’t I know if my child had lead poisoning?
- How do I have my child tested?
- When should I have my child tested?
- What else can I do to protect my child?
- Can lead poisoning be spread to other people?
Lead is a toxic metal that can be absorbed by the body, usually through the stomach and lungs.
Lead poisoning happens when too much lead gets stored in the body. Lead usually enters the body through ingestion (eating) or inhalation (breathing).
You can’t see or smell lead. However, lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body. Children with lead poisoning may not look, act or feel sick, but they may develop learning and behavior problems.
There is no effective treatment for lead exposure. Chelation therapy is used when someone has dangerously high levels of lead in their blood, but it does not reverse the damage already done.
Lead poisoning can happen slowly through several small exposures or quickly through a large exposure to lead. Young children are more susceptible to the toxic effects of lead because certain parts of their nervous system are still developing.
Two common ways children absorb lead are through inhalation and ingestion.
Inhalation is when children breathe in tiny pieces of lead. For example, friction created from the opening and closing of lead-based painted windows can create lead contaminated dust, which children then inhale.
Ingestion is when children eat pieces of lead. This can happen in several ways.
- Putting lead-contaminated toys or other objects in their mouth.
- Sucking on their fingers or placing their hands in their mouth after playing in areas with lead-contaminated dust or soil.
- Eating imported candies that contain lead.
- Lead-contaminated toys – Some toys, especially imported toys, may contain lead in the paint or plastic. If children chew on contaminated toys they can ingest the lead.
- Imported candies and foods, especially from Mexico, which contain chili or tamarind that is contaminated with lead.
- Children’s jewelry made from metal, inexpensive metal amulets and even some costume jewelry designed for adults.
- Lead-contaminated soil or dust.
- Imported or handmade pottery and tableware that uses a leaded glaze.
- Folk remedies from many countries such as Mexico, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, and the Dominican Republic. These are often bright yellow or orange. Examples: Alarcon, Alkohl, Azarcon, Bali goli, Bint al zahab, Coral, Greta, Farouk, Ghasard, Kandu, Kohl, Liga, Litargirio, Lozeena, Pay-loo-ah, Sindoor, and Surma.
- Cosmetics from other countries (Kohl and Surma).
- Imported food in cans that are sealed with lead solder.
- Lead paint – Before 1978, many homes were painted with lead paint. This paint is dangerous when it starts to flake.
- Water – Metals containing lead may be used to join water pipes together.
- Jobs/Hobbies – People who do construction, remodeling, radiator repair, and pottery making may work with lead, and it can be brought home on clothes and shoes.
Even small amounts of lead harm children. At low levels of exposure, children may have behavior problems, and get angry and frustrated easily. They have a hard time learning new things, and may develop Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and have trouble succeeding in school.
At high levels, lead poisoning can cause headaches, hearing loss, brain damage, anemia, coma and even death.
Lead poisoning can harm a child’s nervous system and brain when they are still forming, which may result in permanent loss of intelligence.
Once lead is in the body, the damage it causes cannot be reversed. Chelation therapy, for children with very high lead levels, will only lower those levels. It will not repair the damage already done. Chelation therapy is only used when blood lead levels are very high.
The best way to prevent lead poisoning is to have your child tested and keep him or her from coming into contact with lead-contaminated objects.
All children are at risk of lead poisoning. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what race or culture you are or where you live; your child needs to be tested for lead.
No. Children with lead poisoning often look and act normal. Remember, you can’t see, smell or taste lead. The only way to test for lead is a blood lead test. Children should be tested at 12 and 24 months old. Children between 3 and 6 years old who have never been tested should also receive a test.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that children can be hurt by any level of lead.
Your child’s doctor will be able to test your child for lead. Some doctors in Nevada do not know that lead is a problem here and may not offer the test to you. Insist that your child be tested for lead. A blood test is the only way to know if your child may have been exposed.
Blood lead testing is available at the Family Health Care Center inside the Southern Nevada Health District’s main facility at 280 S. Decatur Blvd. Monday-Friday for children between the ages of 1 and 5. Appointments are required. Call (702) 759-1800.
Most insurance companies cover the cost of lead screenings for children. The Southern Nevada Health District accepts most insurance as well as Medicaid and Nevada Check-Up. If you are uninsured, testing is $28. Hemoglobin testing is also available at the same time for $16.80.
All children need to be tested at 12 months and 24 months of age. If your child is already between 3 and 6 years of age and hasn’t been tested, they should be tested as well.
- Wash your child’s hands and face often, especially before eating, sleeping and after playing.
- Wash toys, countertops and windowsills, and wet mop floors weekly with an all-purpose detergent.
- Do not give children imported candy or snacks if they contain chili or tamarind.
- Do not give your children any home remedies unless approved by your child’s pediatrician.
- Don’t use imported foods that come in cans with wide seams.
- Feed your child regular meals with a diet high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C and low in fat. (Learn more on the Educate, Test & Prevent Lead Exposure webpage)
- When remodeling use a certified contractor who will use lead-safe work practices to clean up paint chips and peeling paint. The EPA pamphlet “Renovate Right” is a good guide for choosing a contractor.
- Allow cold water to run for one minute before using it for drinking, cooking or making baby formula.
- Do not use handmade, older, or imported dishes for eating, storing or serving food.
- If you work with materials that may contain lead take your shoes off and change out of work clothes before entering the house and wash those clothes separately.
- When moving into a home, ask the owner about any problems with lead, and know the age of the home.
- Before you remodel, ask a trained professional to test the paint in your house. If lead is in the paint, learn how to handle it safely.
- Don’t let your child play in areas where soil is exposed.
- Vacuum carpets frequently, using a HEPA filter vacuum.
Updated on: April 1, 2019