Lead Hazards

Lead Paint

What is lead?

Lead, a naturally occurring metal, is abundantly found throughout the Earth. It has been used in a wide variety of products including gasoline, paint, plumbing pipes, ceramics, solders, batteries, and even cosmetics. Because it is so unsafe, the US banned lead from being used in paint in 1978.

Why is lead bad?

When a person is exposed to lead, it can build up in the body, which is commonly referred to as lead poisoning or an elevated blood lead level. There is no safe level of lead in the human body. Lead can damage the brain and body, causing a range of health issues including behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, and death.

Dust from old chipping and peeling paint is the main cause of lead poisoning in kids in Winnebago County. The dust is dangerous because you can't see it. It can stick to hands and toys, finding a way into kids' mouths and harming their growing bodies and brains.

Learn more about the health effects of lead exposure and how to prevent childhood lead poisoning at: www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/default.htm

What are the primary sources of lead today?

Old paint dust. Despite the ban, lead-based paint is still found in older homes and buildings. This paint may chip, and then turn into dust. Lead dust is the most common way that people are exposed to lead in the United States.

Contaminated soil. Old lead-based paint flaking off the outside of buildings can mix with soil. Before the elimination of lead in gasoline, lead from car exhaust mixed with soil near roads, and it is still there. Also, lead in fumes from metal smelting, battery manufacturing, and some factories became airborne and then mixed with soil. Soils in older areas of some cities remain contaminated by lead due to these lead sources. This lead, when part of soil dust, can also contaminate air.

Contaminated drinking water. Water from lakes, rivers, or wells is not a common source of lead. Lead contamination in drinking water usually comes from distribution or plumbing lines that leach lead. The only way to know if lead is in drinking water is to have the water tested.

Who is most at risk?

Lead poisoning can affect anyone, but babies and children under the age of 6 are most at risk because their bodies are still developing. Their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the harmful effects of lead. In addition, babies and children tend to pick up objects and put them in their mouths more frequently and these objects could be contaminated with lead. Adults can also be exposed to lead. Lead exposure for pregnant women is a particular concern because it can result in exposure to their developing baby.

How do I know if my child has been exposed?

There are often no signs or symptoms of lead exposure. Children may have an elevated blood lead level and not look or act sick. The only way to know if your child is being affected by lead is to get a blood screen. Children with high elevated blood lead levels may experience irritability, sleeplessness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

What are the impacts of lead exposure?

Lead exposure, even at low levels, has been shown to harm the developing brains and bodies of infants and young children. This includes a decreased intelligence or ability to learn, increased behavior problems, impaired school performance, increased juvenile delinquency, and increased childhood health problems such as speech and language delays, hearing problems, kidney damage, seizures, and in rare cases, death.

How do I prevent childhood lead exposure?

  • Fix peeling lead paint and make home repairs safely: Keep children away from peeling or chipped paint. Winnebago County Public Health's Lead-Safe Homes Program helps keep kids safe from the dangers of lead poisoning by providing the safe removal of lead from qualified homes and rental properties.
  • Lead is in some children's toys, jewelry, and old furniture. You can find children's product recall alerts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Some jobs and hobbies can involve contact with lead including painting, construction, car repair, and more. If you may have come in contact with lead, change work clothes before going home and wash your hands and other uncovered skin.
  • Keep lead out of your food and tap water. Let tap water run before using it and only use cold water for drinking and cooking. Test your water for lead.

Additional Information