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About Lead Poisoning

Lead is a toxic metal found in paint and various contaminated sources like dust, soil, and water.

Lead poisoning occurs when you breathe in or swallow a substance containing lead. For example, you can get poisoned by swallowing lead paint chips. Even a small amount of lead exposure is harmful, especially over a long period of time. While lead can cause severe health problems in the brain and the body, lead poisoning is preventable.

Common Sources of Lead

  • Homes or buildings built before 1978 might contain lead-based paint.
  • Homes or buildings might have water pipes that contain lead.
  • Contaminated dust, food, soil, surfaces, and water.
  • Some imported items like ceramics, cosmetics, jewelry, and toys.

Common Health Risks

  • Anemia
  • Slowed growth and development.
  • Damage to the brain and nervous system.
  • Damage to the kidneys, stomach, and other organs.
  • Problems in behavior, learning, hearing, speech, and reproduction.

Take Action to Stay Lead-Safe

  • Ask your doctor if testing for lead is right for you.
    • Children and adults—including pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant—should consult with their doctor first before getting tested.
    • Children may have lead poisoning even when they appear healthy.
  • Contact your local health department about testing paint and dust in your home for lead.
  • If you have questions on lead poisoning, call our Poison Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

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