Lead poisoning prevention

It is a topic that most parents will glance over, yet it remains a significant health concern for children. With the Iowa Lead Poisoning Prevention week fast approaching, here are some important details people need to know from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead is a highly toxic substance that can produce adverse effects in nearly all organ systems in the body. There are many ways in which humans are exposed to lead; for example, through chipped paint, household dust, bare soil, drinking water, air, food, hair dyes and other cosmetics (NSC 2009). Lead-based paint, which was banned from residential use in 1978, is one of the main sources of lead poisoning in Iowa. Exposure to an increased amount of lead can cause anyone to become poisoned. There is no such thing as a “safe level” of lead. It is usually caused by children who come in contact with lead paint chips or dust particles for homes built prior to 1978.

Test for lead poisoning

Most children won’t appear to be sick when they have lead poisoning. Some symptoms may include: becoming easily excited, difficulty paying attention, stomach aches and headaches and more tired than usual. By law, Iowa’s children must be tested before entering Kindergarten, but current recommendation suggests at 12 months of age and then annually until the age of six. If people have concerns, contact a physician and have them run the appropriate blood test.

Health risks associated with lead poisoning

Exposure to high levels of lead can produce some very serious health effects in children. These include damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems making it hard to learn and hearing and speech problems.

Lead poisoning prevention

The good news is the lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable. Check the home where the child lives or visits for any paint that is peeling and chipping. Wash the child’s hands before and after any meal, snacks or naps. Keep the child’s play area clean by wet mopping. Wash the child’s toys, blankets, pacifiers, clothing and bedding often. Clean high-risk areas regularly such as window sills, door jams and porches.

Getting the lead out

If a child has confirmed lead in the body, the CDC recommends the following: Make an appointment with your doctor about the next steps and any future testing that is needed. Ensure the home is inspected by a licensed lead inspector prior to any renovation. Feed the child healthy foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin C and iron.

People can all play a part in keeping children healthy. For more information on lead poisoning, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website at: idph.iowa.gov/Environmental-Health-Services/Childhood-Lead-Poisoning-Prevention/Parents-and-Guardians


Carrie Kube is a director for the Iowa River Valley

Early Childhood Area Board.


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