Information for Families
How Do Children Get Exposed to Lead?
Young children, especially babies and toddlers, put everything in their mouth! Most houses or apartments built before 1978 have old layers of lead paint in them. Once the paint begins peeling or chipping off of surfaces, it becomes a hazard. If your little ones put tiny paint chips or their fingers that have dust from that paint in their mouths, lead exposure can occur. Even a small amount of lead can harm a young child by impacting their growth, behavior, and ability to learn.
The main source of lead exposure in New York State continues to be from old chipping and peeling lead-based paint inside or outside the home. If you live in an older home, or your child spends time in an older home, make sure to learn about lead hazards and how you can protect your young child. To learn more about additional sources of lead, please visit https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/6517.pdf.
Keeping Safe from Lead Exposures
- Fix peeling or chipping paint and make sure home renovations are done safely.Call your local health department for information about professionals who handle lead-based paint problems. If you rent your home, your landlord is responsible for the necessary repairs. Some counties in NYS have grant programs available for tenants, landlords, and homeowners to address lead hazards. (See Financial Assistance for Lead Hazard Reduction below).
- Wash children's hands and face after play, before meals, and before bed. Other items that may be placed in a child’s mouth should be washed frequently such as toys, stuffed animals, pacifiers, and bottles. In order to keep any potential dust at a minimum, regularly wet mop floors and use damp paper towels to clean.
- Avoid bringing lead home on clothing and shoes. Some work and hobbies can expose you to lead. In order to make sure it's not being tracked into the house you can change work clothes before going home, take off your shoes at the front door, wash clothes that may have been exposed separately, and wash your face, hands, and any uncovered skin before going home. For more information, please visit https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/workers.htm
- Keep lead out of your food and tap water. Some dishes, spices, candy, cosmetics, and health remedies have been found to contain lead. You can contact your local county health department to get more information on these products. Occasionally, old plumbing systems may contain lead. The longer the water stands in the pipes, the greater the possibility of lead being dissolved into the water. To reduce the amount of lead in tap water, run cold water for infant formula or cooking and let the tap run for at least a minute before using. To learn more about lead in water, please visit https://health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/lead/
- Serve foods that have calcium, iron, and vitamin C. Foods high in these vitamins and minerals can help reduce the effects of lead. Foods with calcium include: milk, cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables. Foods with iron include: beans, lean meat, fortified cereal, peanut butter. Foods with vitamin C include: oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, tomatoes, green peppers.
Remember, all children should be tested for lead at 1 AND 2 years of age. If you are concerned that your child may have been exposed to lead, contact their doctor and your local county health department for more information on getting your child a lead test and testing your home for lead.
Additional educational resources may be found at the NYS Department of Health Website
Financial Assistance for Lead Hazard Reduction
Assistance may be available through additional programs that are not listed here. For more information, contact the lead program at your local health department.
HealthLink on Air
In a May 10, 2018 HealthLink on Air radio interview, Dr. Howard Weinberger explains why lead exposure can be so dangerous to the developing brains of children and can also damage the liver and kidneys of children and adults.