Lead Poisoning in Children and Pregnant Women

Lead poisoning can lead to learning and behavior problems in children. Young children are most at risk.

Peeling lead paint (and the dust it turns into) is the most common cause of lead poisoning. New York City banned the use of lead paint in homes in 1960, but many older buildings still have lead paint on their walls, windows, doors, and other surfaces. When young children play on the floor or by windows and put their hands and toys in their mouths, they can swallow lead dust.

Avoid Exposure

  • Report peeling or damaged paint to your building owner. Building owners are required to safely fix peeling paint. If they do not fix the paint, you can report them online, or by calling 311.
  • Keep children away from peeling paint and home repairs.
  • Wash floors and windowsills often. Wash children's hands and toys too.
  • Remove shoes before entering your home.
  • Wash work clothes separately from the family laundry if someone in your household works with lead.

Products with Lead

In addition to paint, lead has been found in certain imported products for children and adults, including:

  • Jewelry
  • Toys
  • Herbal medicine
  • Clay pots and dishes
  • Cosmetics
  • Foods and spices

For information about lead in toys and other toy safety hazards, read our Toy Safety Tips Fact Sheet (PDF).
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For more information about specific imported products that may be dangerous, read our Lead in Imported Products Fact Sheet (PDF)
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Pregnant Women

Pregnant women who are exposed to lead can in turn expose their unborn baby. Lead exposure during pregnancy can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Miscarriage
  • Babies born too soon or too small
  • Learning and behavior problems in a child

Lead Testing

A blood test is the only way to find out if you have lead poisoning. In New York State, children must be tested for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2. Ask your doctor about testing older children if you think they may have been exposed to lead.

Pregnant women should be assessed for lead exposure at their first doctor’s visit. Call 311 for help finding a doctor or clinic.

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