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About Lead Poisoning

From China and Antarctica to Ohio and California, no nation or state is free of lead poisoning. It affects humans and wildlife, children and adults, with children being the most susceptible to harm from lead. Lead paint exposure, dirt, pottery, hobbies, imported toys, home renovations and more are all suspect when it comes to lead poisoning. One million children today are affected by lead poisoning, but if parents know what to look for and what to do, lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable.

“Lead poisoning continues to be one of the most important and preventable pediatric environmental diseases today. Lead poisoning causes a variety of medical problems, including learning disabilities, anemia, growth problems and behavioral issues,” said Cyrus Rangan, MD, a pediatrician and medical toxicologist with California Poison Control ( He added that children are most commonly exposed to lead by ingesting paint chips or paint dust and by eating dirt that is contaminated with lead. Loose dry soil may lead to an increased risk in lead exposure in children who play outside in the dirt. Dr. Rangan offers the following 10 lead poisoning prevention tips:

  1. Ask your doctor about screening your young children for lead. Children may have lead poisoning even when they appear healthy.
  2. Make sure your children do not put their mouths on painted surfaces, such as toys or window sills. Old, recycled nursery furniture may also be painted with lead paint.
  3. If you live in a home or apartment built before 1978, have the paint checked for lead.
  4. Cover paint that is peeling or chipping with duct tape until it can be repaired or removed.
  5. Necklaces, bracelets, watches, candy, spices and cosmetics from other countries may contain lead.
  6. Keys may have small amounts of lead in them – do not let babies play with or teethe on keys.
  7. Local water supplies are tested regularly for contaminants, including lead. Occasionally older pipes in your home may gradually leech lead into your tap water. If you are concerned about your tap water, run the faucet for a few minutes before using cold water for cooking, drinking or preparing infant formula (this can help flush out the lead which can build up in sitting water) especially if the cold water hasn't been used in the past several hours.
  8. If your child dines on or drinks from lead-glazed ceramic pottery, he or she could be exposed to lead.
  9. Shooting ranges are a source of lead poisoning. Children should be kept away from dirt surrounding them. Do not allow children to play near mines, smelters, or battery-recycling plants (even if closed) due to lead exposure that may occur in the local environment.
  10. Folk medicines (especially home remedies) imported from another country may also contain lead. These include: pay-loo-ah (fever and rash treatment); Azarcon (also called Maria Luisa, Liga, Alarzon, Greta, Coral and Rueda); Asian folk remedies and cosmetics, including Ghasard, Bali Goli, and Kandu; and Middle Eastern cosmetics and folk remedies, including kohl, farouk, and bint al zahab.

Call California Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222 for more information on lead poisoning. Trained certified pharmacists, nurses and poison information providers to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are always available. Follow CPCS on Facebook and on Twitter @poisoninfo. For more free poison and safety tips, text the word TIPS or PUNTOS for Spanish to 69866.

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