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Lead poisoning is the accumulation of lead in the body. Lead usually enters the body in the form of lead dust that is breathed in or by eating something that has been contaminated with lead. Children under 6 years old absorb lead more easily and are more easily harmed by lead.
Lead poisoning can happen slowly over time as lead builds up in the body or can happen suddenly if someone is exposed to a lot of lead at once. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. The only way to know if someone has lead poisoning is by getting a blood lead test.
There is no known "safe" level of lead to have in the body. Any measurable amount of lead in the body may have negative health effects and can cause lifelong learning and behavior problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently uses a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (5 mcg/dL) or higher to identify children who have an elevated blood lead level.
Lead poisoning can be treated but most of the damage caused by lead poisoning is permanent. The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable.
Common sources of lead poisoning include:
Lead poisoning is completely preventable. The key is to prevent lead exposure before your family is poisoned. The following are ways to protect your children from lead poisoning:
Older homes and buildings built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. Disturbing lead-based paint during remodeling and repainting can create dangerous lead dust. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for more information on renovating or painting your home.
Please visit the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission Recall List to view lead-related and other product recalls.
Feed children a healthy diet with foods rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C (see the following list for examples). These nutrients help prevent lead from being absorbed by the body and can also help remove lead from the body:
For more information about preventing lead poisoning in your child through nutrition, take a look at these handouts: