Today, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet nearly half a million U.S. children have elevated blood-lead levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A simple blood test can prevent permanent damage that will last a lifetime.
- Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection before you buy a home built before 1978.
- Get Your Child Tested. Ask your doctor to test your young children for lead even if they seem healthy.
- Get the Facts. Learn how to prevent lead poisoning.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children 6 years old and under are most at risk, because their bodies are growing quickly.
Sources of Lead
National research suggests that the primary sources of lead exposure for most children are:
- Deteriorating lead-based paint.
- Homes built before 1978 are at risk of having lead-based paint.
- Dust from lead based paint worn down by repeated friction of opening and closing of windows and doors.
- Improperly remodeling or renovating a home with lead based paint.
- Soil around the home and play areas that is tracked inside the home.
- Imported homeopathic's and home remedies.
- Arzacon, Greta, Payloo-ah, Ghasard and Ba-baw-san.
- Imported foods and spices - mexican candy.
- Imported cosmetics.
- Surma, Kohl and Kajal.
- Imported toys, chalk and crayons.
- Imported or old ceramics, dinner ware, pottery.
- Water pipes with lead solder, brass plumbing fixtures.
- Imported homeopathic's and home remedies.
Changes in the law have greatly reduced the amount of lead in our homes and in the air today. But it is important to remember that lead does not break down over time. Therefore, you should know how to identify sources of lead in your home and how to keep your family safe.
Lead Case Management in Fairfax County
Fairfax County Health Department conducts case management for all reports of lead poisoning in children under age 6. When a report is received of a child with a significantly elevated blood lead level, a Health Department multidisciplinary Lead Response Team conducts an Elevated Blood Lead Level Environmental Investigation and educates the household members about reducing lead exposure.
For questions about lead please call the Health Department at 703-246-2300, TTY 711.
Action Steps to Reduce Lead Exposure
In older homes that may have been painted with lead-based paint (often built before 1978), make sure household members avoid peeling paint and paint dust in window sills. Homes built before 1950 pose the greatest hazard to children because they are more likely to contain lead-based paint. Since lead-based paint wasn’t banned until 1978, 83 percent to 86 percent of these homes have lead-based paint. Forty-seven percent of Fairfax County homes were built before 1978 and are at risk of having lead based paint.
- Any peeling paint should be removed and the paint chips swept away. Removal of lead paint is hazardous and should be done by a qualified professional. Children should not be present when scraping or cleaning up paint chips.
- Dust should be kept to a minimum by damp mopping and using a wet cloth to clean walls, window sills, and other surfaces.
- Wash your hands regularly, particularly before meals and after playing outside.
- Do not store food in open cans, particularly if the cans are imported.
- Avoid eating from, cooking with or storing food in pottery and ceramic dinnerware that is intended for decorative use or the lead content is unknown.
- Eat foods rich in calcium and iron to prevent lead absorption into the body.
- Anyone whose homes were built prior to 1986, or who may be particularly concerned about lead in their household plumbing, should let cold water run from the faucet for 60-90 seconds prior to using water for drinking or cooking, keeping in mind that boiling water does not reduce lead in water.
Read about lead hazard information for renovation, repair and painting activities in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pamphlet Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools, which also is available in Spanish.
Get more tips for preventing childhood lead poisoning on the EPA website or by calling 1-800-424-LEAD.
- Virginia Department of Health Lead Safe Program
- Lead Recalls - U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Learn About Lead - EPA
- Lead - CDC
- EPA en español
- EPA lead regulations now apply to all contractors for renovation, repair or painting in homes built before 1978.
- Lead Hazard Control - Housing and Urban Development
- National Center for Lead Safe Housing