Lead

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What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal in the environment. Lead can be found in the air, soil, water, and inside our homes.

Lead-based paint and lead dust are the main sources of lead poisoning. Homes built before 1978 are likely to have lead-based paint.

Other sources could include soil, drinking water, toys and jewelry, workplace and hobby hazards, imported spices, and traditional home remedies and cosmetics. Learn more about common sources of lead.

What are the health effects of lead and who is at risk?

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are the most affected by lead exposure. Their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

Lead in young children can cause behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems. Lead can also cause slowed growth and anemia in children.

Lead in adults, including pregnant women, can cause hypertension and increased blood pressure. Lead can also cause kidney and reproductive problems in both men and women. In pregnant women, lead can be passed to the unborn baby.

In rare cases, lead can cause seizures, coma, and even death.

Babies and children may be exposed to lead by:

Adults, including pregnant women, may be exposed to lead by:

How do I know if my child has been exposed to lead?

Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. A blood test is the only way to tell if your child has been exposed to lead.

Does your child…

If you answered YES to any of these questions or if you think your child has had any contact with lead, ask your doctor for a lead test. Learn more about testing children for lead poisoning

How do I prevent exposure to lead?

Steps you can take to lower the chances of exposure to lead in your home:

Lead in Washington State

For Health Care Providers and Partners