Lead is a poison that affects every organ and system in the body. There is no function or need for lead in our bodies. Very high levels of lead exposure can cause coma, seizures, and death. Even a small amount of lead can make children slower learners.
Lead health effects
- brain damage and lower intelligence
- behavior and learning problems
- impaired speech and language
- slowed growth
- kidney and liver damage
- hearing damage
Possible signs and symptoms
- tiredness or loss of energy
- irritability or crankiness
- reduced attention span
- poor appetite
- weight loss
- trouble sleeping
- aches or pains in stomach
Sources of lead exposure
Lead paint dust is the most common way people are exposed. Lead paint is common inside and outside of homes built prior to 1978.
Ordinary household repair and maintenance activities stir up dust. If your home was built before 1978, it's important to use lead-safe work practices for remodeling or repairs. If you hire a contractor to do the work, look for contractors who are Renovation, Repair and Painting certified.
People can also get lead in their bodies by eating food contaminated by lead from soil, paint chips, toys or jewelry that contain lead.
Lead poisoning prevention (video)
School water testing
In April 2016, Governor Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to review existing programs and create a plan to address the problem of lead in school water.
Visit your school district website or contact the administrative office to find out the results of your school's water lead testing.
Request specific information about which (if any) water fixtures tested high. If positive lead findings were posted for a building, not all water sources or fixtures may be included or have high lead levels
Getting tested for lead
A blood test is the only way to find out if a child has lead poisoning. Signs of lead poisoning are not always easy to see. Children can be poisoned by lead, but not look or act sick. Because of this, lead poisoning may go unrecognized.
Your child may be at risk for lead poisoning if you answer "yes" or "don't know" to the questions below.
Signs of lead poisoning are not always easy to see, so if your child is at risk, you should have your child tested.
- Does your child spend time in an old home or building built before 1950?
- Has your child recently spent time in an old home or building where repairs and/or remodeling was being done?
- Has your child recently spent time in an old home or building where painting is being done inside or outside the home?
- Does your child have a brother or sister who has lead poisoning or does your child know anyone with lead poisoning?
- Does your child spend time with anyone who uses lead in their work or hobbies? (Examples include: painting, remodeling, auto radiators, batteries, auto repair, soldering, making sinkers, bullets, stained glass, pottery, going to shooting ranges, hunting or fishing).
- Do you use imported pottery, ceramics, lead crystal or pewter for cooking or storing or serving food?
- Has your child ever taken traditional or home remedies or used makeup imported into the U.S.?
- Has your child visited or lived outside the U.S. in the last 6 months?
- Is your child enrolled in or attending a Head Start program?
Discuss lead testing with your health care provider. Not all providers routinely test children for lead, so you may need to specifically ask about lead testing.
Be prepared to explain your concerns. Be assertive in asking for the test if your feel you child may be at risk. Your health care provider can also offer important next steps and follow-up depending on the test results.