Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, about 1 in 22 children in America have high levels
of lead in their blood. Many homes and apartments built before 1978 have
lead paint or varnish on the walls, woodwork, windows and floors. In homes
built before 1950 there is a greater chance the paint contains lead.
When children are exposed to lead dust it can cause illness. It can also
cause problems with learning, growth, and behaviors that can affect a
child's entire life. Even small amounts of lead can be harmful.
The Public Health unit offers lead testing to all children under age 6
years who are at risk for lead poisoning, at no charge. All children who are
enrolled in the WIC program receive lead testing at one and two years of
age. The test is done by obtaining a blood sample from a finger stick. To
determine if a child is at risk for lead poisoning, answer these four easy
- Does the child now live in or frequently visit a house or building
built before 1950? or has the child done so in the past (for example, in
day care, a home of friends or grandparents or other relatives?)
- Does the child now live in or frequently visit a house or building
built before 1978 with recent or ongoing renovations or have they ever
lived in such a building in the past?
- Does the child have a brother, sister, or playmate who now has or
had lead poisoning?
- Is the child enrolled in (or eligible for) Medicaid, HealthCheck, or
If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions the child should be
tested for lead poisoning.
If a child is found to be lead poisoned, the Public Health unit
will do an investigation to determine the source of the lead, and give
guidelines for the removal of the lead hazards. These investigations are
done by a certified lead-risk assessor.
To schedule an appointment to test a child for lead poisoning, or
if you have questions about lead poisoning, please call the Public Health
unit at 262-741-3140 or call toll free
What is Lead?
Lead is an elemental metal that was previously commonly used in many
products such as plumbing pipes, paint, and crystal. Today products
manufactured in the US are mostly lead free, however imported products,
food, and traditional medicines may contain lead.
What is Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning is lead in the body, caused by swallowing or breathing in
Children under 6 years old are most at risk. If you are pregnant, lead can
harm your baby.
Adults who work with lead are also at risk.
Protecting children from exposure
to lead is important to lifelong good health. Even low levels of lead in
blood have been shown to cause hearing and speech problems, learning
disabilities, behavior problems, and loss of IQ points. The effects of lead
exposure are permanent and life-long. In
rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.
Most frequently lead poisoning is caused by
deteriorating paint in homes built before 1950.
Any home built before 1978 may
contain lead paint. The older the home, the more likely it is to have
lead paint. Windows are frequently
the source of the majority of lead paint dust in a home, but many other
sources may also be present. Find out
information on having your home tested for lead:
Your child may be at risk for lead poisoning if any of the following apply:
He/she lives in or spends time in a home built before 1950
He/she lives in or spends time in a home built before 1978 that is
undergoing or has recently undergone renovations
He/she has a sibling or playmate with lead poisoning
You, or anyone who spends time around the child, work or participate in
activities or hobbies that involve lead dust exposure
How can I Prevent Lead
The most important step a person can take is to
prevent lead exposure before it occurs.
How do you test for
Your health care provider or the Walworth County WIC program can do a simple
blood test to determine the level of lead in the blood.
This test is usually done at 12 and 24 months of age for children who
are considered at risk for lead poisoning, and are covered under most health
insurance programs including BadgerCare.
As of May, 2012, a blood lead
level of 5 µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter) or greater is considered to be a
“level of concern”.
Childhood Lead Poisoning – What You Should Know About
Your Child’s Blood Test Results
Walworth County Division of
Public Health staff follow up with all children who have blood lead levels
5 µg/dL or greater. Public Health works with the parent and the
doctor to confirm the lead level, and provide education and counseling.
If the high lead level is confirmed, the Walworth County Division of
Public Health has 3 certified Lead Hazard Investigators on staff who can
work with the family to determine the source of the lead and provide
instruction and guidance on how to remove the danger from the child’s
extremely high lead levels (40 µg/dL or greater) may be treated with
medicine to help remove the lead from their bodies.
This will not reverse any damage already done, but may prevent
serious dangers of lead, such as coma.
Lead in Pregnant Women
During pregnancy, lead can cross over from the mother’s
blood into the baby’s blood through the placenta.
This can cause many problems, including:
Lead can also be transmitted through breast milk.
Read more on lead exposure in
pregnancy and breastfeeding (PDF)
(302 pp, 4.2 MB,
Reduced growth of the baby
less likely to be lead poisoned than children. Adults do not absorb as much
lead as children do. Adults who work
with lead (such as renovation/demolition work, marine and bridge painting,
brass manufacturing) are most likely to have high lead levels.
High lead levels in adults can cause:
High blood pressure
Decreased kidney function
Infertility for both men and women
Lead Exposures during Remodeling:
Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust
are the most hazardous sources of lead for U.S. children.
When lead-based paint begins to fail (chip or peel away) or when it
is disturbed (by renovation/remodeling), the dust created can be ingested or
inhaled by children.
Lead-based paints were banned for use in
housing in 1978.
All houses built before 1978 are likely to
contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration or
disturbance of this paint that causes a problem.
Wisconsin’s Lead Safe Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule follows Federal regulations (EPA’s Lead
Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule, or RRP) stating that all homes built
before 1978 must use certified companies and lead-safe practices for
renovation projects, even if children
do not live or spend time in the home.
Wisconsin Lead Certified Companies
For more information about lead please visit:
Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Lead-Safe Home
Environmental Protection Agency
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March of Dimes Healthy Pregnancy
Effects of Workplace Hazards on Female Reproductive
Preventing Child Lead Exposure by Window Replacement