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What is lead poisoning, and who is at risk of getting it?

Lead poisoning is a serious and chronic health condition that is 100-percent preventable but still affects far too many of our friends and neighbors. It is caused by exposure to lead in the environment—including what people eat, drink touch and breath. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the human body. There is no cure for lead poisoning. Children age 6 and younger, as well as pregnant women, are at the highest risk of lead poisoning, because young children’s bodies and brains are still developing.

What are the effects of lead poisoning?

Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in the following health and developmental issues:

  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Lower IQ and Hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing Problems
  • Anemia

In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.

In adults—and especially in pregnant women—lead can accumulate in the body over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from the mother's bones along with calcium and can pass from the mother, exposing the fetus or the breastfeeding infant to lead. This can result in serious effects to the developing fetus and infant, including: 

  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Damage to the brain, kidneys and/or nervous system
  • Increased risk of developmental, learning and behavioral problems
  • Increased risk of miscarriage

How do I know if lead exposure is a health concern for me or my child?

A blood lead test is the most common way to find out if you or your child have been exposed to lead.

Most children with detectable levels of lead in their blood have no obvious symptoms. Every child should be tested between 9 months and 3 years old.

What can be done to prevent lead exposure for me and my family?

The best way to prevent lead exposure and poisoning is to have your home checked for lead hazards.

Finding and safely removing sources of lead from the home is needed to prevent further exposure. If your child spends a lot of time somewhere other than their home, like a grandparent’s home or daycare, it is important to know when that building was constructed. Homes and other buildings constructed prior to 1978 should be assumed to have lead-based paint, unless a test shows otherwise.

Here are some resources and tips to help keep your home safe:

Apply for the Lead-Free Families program today! Just click here.

Or contact our team at 717-544-LEAD (5323) or at info@leadfreefamilies.org to learn more.

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