Childhood Lead Poisoning Facts
Lead is a naturally occurring element found in the earth that has been used in many products such as paint, gasoline, ceramics and jewelry. Lead is a poison in the human body. If you think you have a lead problem in your home, the following questions and answers may address many of your concerns:
What is lead poisoning?
Who can get lead poisoning?
What are the impacts of lead poisoning?
What is the most common source of lead exposure in Milwaukee?
Are there other sources of lead exposure?
How many children in Milwaukee are affected by lead poisoning?
How do I know if my child has lead poisoning?
How do I pay for my child's lead tests?
How can I permanently prevent childhood lead poisoning?
Are there temporary measures to reduce lead hazards and protect my child?
What else can I do to keep my children safe from lead?
Where can I find additional information about lead?
- Lead poisoning is a serious public health problem.
- Lead poisoning is a significant environmental health concern for children across the U.S., and a major concern for children in Milwaukee.
- Lead poisoning is preventable.
- Children are most harmed by lead poisoning. Children between the ages of six months and six years of age are at the highest risk due to normal hand-to-mouth behavior, increasing mobility and rapid brain development.
- Adults can also be lead poisoned. Chronic exposure to lead can result in negative consequences to health.
- Decreased intelligence/ability to learn.
- Increased behavior problems.
- Increased childhood health problems, such as speech and language delays, hearing problems, kidney damage, seizure, and in rare cases, death.
- Impaired school performance.
- Increased juvenile delinquency.
- Reduced health and economic status of the future adult population.
- The primary source of lead exposure in Milwaukee is lead-based paint and leaded household dust, especially around windows.
- Although the primary source of lead exposure is lead-based paint, there are other sources including: soil, water, imported jewelry and toys, antiques, imported dishes, and traditional ("folk") remedies. Lead exposure may also occur with jobs and hobbies where lead is involved.
- In 2015, over 2,800 children tested in the City of Milwaukee had lead levels equal to or above 5 µg/dL, the CDC level of intervention.
- In 2015, 475 children were newly identified with lead levels equal to or greater than 10 µg/dL.
- There are often no signs or symptoms. Children can have lead poisoning and not look or act sick. Some children may feel sick to their stomachs, tired or irritable.
- Blood lead testing is the only way to tell if your child is being affected by lead. The Milwaukee Health Department recommends that all children have a blood lead test three times before age three, at around 12, 18, and 24 months of age. Find answers to frequently asked questions and specific testing recommendations here.
- Lead tests are paid for by most insurance plans and HMOs.
- Testing for Medicaid-eligible children is required and paid for by Medicaid.
- The only way to permanently eliminate lead hazards in a home is to permanently cover, remove or replace painted surfaces in a lead safe manner.
- Repair and/or maintain painted surfaces (primarily windows, exteriors, and trim) in a lead safe manner to reduce lead exposure.
- Cover bare soil in the yard and play areas with mulch or grass.
- Remove paint chips and lead dust from windows with a HEPA vacuum. The City of Milwaukee Health Department has HEPA vacuums that are loaned without cost for use on properties in the City of Milwaukee.
- Clean your floors and window sills and troughs with soapy water. Then rinse areas well and throw out dishrags and/or towels.
- Use rugs at entry ways to clean dust and dirt from shoes. Periodically clean rugs and mats.
- Cover painted surfaces that are chipped or have holes with contact paper, duct tape, or cardboard.
- Hose down porches and decks.
- State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Lead-Safe Wisconsin - Find Information for Parents, Certified Lead Abatement Contractors, Wisconsin Data and Information, and Product Recalls
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Find information for Parents, Data and Statistics, Scientific Publications, and Product Recalls
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Find information about Healthy Homes
- United States Environmental Protection Agency - Find Educational and Outreach Materials, Lead Testing Procedures, Current Laws and Regulations, and Enforcement
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) - Find Current Programs and Grants, Policy and Enforcement, and Research Studies