Lead Poisoning: Children and Pregnant Women
Lead is a poison that can harm children and cause health problems during pregnancy. Younger children are more at risk for lead exposure.
Lead exposure in children can cause:
- Learning and behavior problems
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Slowed growth and development
- Hearing and speech problems
Lead exposure during pregnancy can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Babies born too soon or too small
- Learning and behavior problems in the child
In New York City, the most commonly identified source of lead exposure for children is peeling lead paint and its dust. The 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. Lead dust from peeling, cracked or loose paint or unsafe home repairs can land on windowsills, floors, surfaces and toys and other objects people touch. When young children play on the floor and put their hands and toys in their mouths, they can swallow lead dust.
Lead can also be found in some traditional spices, ceramics, medicines, cosmetics, toys and jewelry from other countries. It can also be in soil and plumbing.
Pregnant women exposed to lead when they were younger may still have lead in their body and could pass it on to the unborn baby.
- Report peeling, cracked or loose paint to your building owner. Building owners are required to safely fix peeling paint. If they do not fix the paint, or they are not doing the work safely, you can report them online, or by calling 311.
- Use safe work methods when doing home repairs that disturb paint. For information on lead-safe work methods, call 311.
- Keep away from peeling paint and home repairs.
- Wash floors, windowsills, hands, toys and pacifiers often. Wash children's hands especially after they play outside and before eating.
- Remove shoes before entering the home.
- Wash work clothes separately from the rest of the laundry if someone in the household works with lead.
- Use only cold tap water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Run the water for at least 30 seconds, or until it is noticeably colder, before using it.
- Request a free Lead in Drinking Water Test Kit online or by calling 311.
- Avoid using consumer products known to contain lead. Some traditional products from other countries may contain lead even if "lead" is not listed on the product packaging.
- Never eat non-food items, such as clay, crushed pottery, soil or paint chips.
- Eat a healthy diet. Talk to your doctor to make sure you and your child are getting enough calcium, iron and vitamin C.
- Follow our gardening tips to safely grow and eat fruits and vegetables.
Get Tested for Lead
Most people with lead poisoning do not look or feel sick. A blood lead test is the only way to know for sure if you or your child has been exposed to lead.
In New York State, children must be tested for lead poisoning at age 1, and again at age 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.
If you think you or your family members are at risk for lead poisoning, ask a health care provider for a blood lead test. Call 311 for help finding a provider or clinic.