7 Risk Factors for Lead Poisoning

Despite laws eliminating lead from products from paint to gasoline, lead poisoning remains an issue in the United States. Children are particularly susceptible as they are more likely to ingest lead and absorb lead more readily than adults. In addition to the causing permanent learning and behavioral disorders, lead poisoning can result in hemolytic anemia. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommendations regarding screening for lead poisoning. All children receiving Medicaid should have levels drawn at age 1 and 2. Other children are screened based on risk (parents complete short questionnaire regarding exposure to lead).


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Paint may be the most well-recognized source of lead in the United States. Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, so if your home is older than this, lead-based pain may be present. Children may ingest peeling paint and absorb lead from it. Additionally, dust in your house may also contain lead and may be inhaled. This can be a problem, particularly during home renovations. You can reduce the risk by wiping down windowsills, wet mop floors, and vacuum frequently. Children and pregnant women should not be in the home during renovations. 


Girl Playing in Yard
Girl Playing in Yard. Shestock/Blend Images/Getty Images

Dirt around homes with lead-based paint can contain lead. Our shoes can bring this lead containing dirt into our homes. This risk can be reduced by removing shoes upon entering your home. Cover bare dirt in your yard and avoid letting your children play in bare dirt; build a sandbox instead.

Medications From Other Countries

Yellow powder
Yellow powder. Davies and Starr/Stone/Getty Images

Traditional (folk) remedies from several countries have been found to contain lead. Sometimes lead is included in the medications because it is a metal and thought to help certain ailments. Sometimes the way a medications is prepared results in lead contamination. You cannot tell if a medication contains lead by taste. Medications commonly found to contain lead include greta, azarcon, ghasard, ba-baw san, and Daw Tway.

Ceramics or Pottery

Pottery. Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Some paints or glazes used to decorate pottery items or ceramics contain lead. When food or drink is placed in these objects, lead can leach out and be ingested. Lead is more likely to be in pottery from Latin America, the Middle East, India, and in painted china.


Construction Site
Construction Site. Ezra Bailey/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Some occupations are high-risk for exposure to lead. The list is long but includes auto repair, battery manufacturers, construction workers, firing range instructors, glass manufacturers, bullet manufacturers, plumbers, shipbuilders, and steel welders. People in these fields can bring lead into their homes, so it is important to shower and change your clothes and shoes after you work.  

Tap Water

Water Running From Tap
Water Running From Tap. Caiaimage/Tom Merton/OJO+/Getty Images

Lead in water usually occurs secondary to the use of lead pipes for plumbing in older homes rather than the actual water supply. You can reduce your risk of ingesting lead from your water by running the tap for at least one minute prior to using. Also, hot water is more likely to contain lead, so use cold water only for drinking, food preparation and mixing formula.


Toys. Dave King/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Toys that are manufactured in countries where the use of lead is not restricted may contain lead. Also, antique toys passed down in families may contain lead. You can find a list of recalled toys on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Discuss your risk with your physician

If you or your child have potentially come into contact (ingested or inhaled) with lead, discuss with your physician whether you should have a lead level drawn. Treatment for elevated lead levels or poisoning (called chelation) is generally managed by a hematologist.