Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in paint and other products found in and around our homes. Lead also can be emitted into the air from industrial sources and lead can enter drinking water from plumbing materials (Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder). Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children six years old and under are most at risk.
- Lead dust - the dust can contain lead from deteriorated, interior lead-based paint or tracked-in, contaminated soil. Lead dust can be created during home remodeling or renovation projects, or when lead-based paint is not removed in a lead-safe way.
- Lead-based paint – eating cracking, chipping and peeling lead-based paint is also a lead source for young children. Lead paint was used on the inside and outside of homes built before 1978.
- Soil – soil can be contaminated with lead from deteriorated, exterior paint on homes, buildings, or fences. As the result of past use of leaded gasoline, lead can also be found in the soil near major roadways or intersections in urban areas. Neither of these places are safe play areas for a child.
Water – lead levels in your water are likely to be highest if your home or water system has lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder. Plumbing put in before 1930 may contain lead pipes. Plumbing installed before 1985 may contain lead-based solder in the copper joints in the water supply system.
Lead poisoning is the presence of too much lead in the body, and is the most common preventable pediatric health problem in the United States today. It is caused by exposure to lead that is either eaten or breathed in the form of dust. The body carries the lead in the blood to soft tissues and bones, where it can be stored for many years. Exposure to lead can be harmful to several organs, including the nervous system and kidneys.
People of any age can get lead poisoning, but children are at the greatest risk. Their small bodies absorb more lead than adult bodies do, and the lead affects them more because their bodies are still growing. Lead often targets the developing brain and nervous system. Children also are more likely to absorb lead dust because they place their hands and other objects in their mouths. Their proximity to the floor place children in greater contact with potentially contaminated dust and dirt.
Even unborn children can be harmed by lead. If a pregnant woman has an elevated blood lead level, the lead can pass from her blood to the blood of her unborn baby, causing damage similar to the problems associated with postnatal lead exposure. Women with elevated lead levels may deliver premature babies or babies with low birth weight. These children are more likely to have language and intellectual delays later in life.
Source - Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)