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Lead Poisoning

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California Environmental Health Tracking Program

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Last Edited: 9/28/2010

Lead Poisoning: Prevention and Treatment

Lead poisoning is the most common environmental illness in California children and it is preventable.

How is lead poisoning treated?

  • The most common way to treat lead poisoning in children is to find the lead source and remove it from their environment
  • Few children have high enough levels of lead in their blood that they require a medicine called a chelating agent
    • A chelating agent is a type of medicine that helps to remove the lead from the child’s body
  • Any other problems associated with lead poisoning, such as anemia, should be treated
  • A healthy diet is recommended
  • Your local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is available to help you and your health care provider to find and remove the source of lead poisoning

 Visit the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch for more information on how lead poisoning is treated.


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How can lead poisoning be prevented?

Lead poisoning is preventable.  There are several precautions that can be taken to ensure that your children are safe from lead poisoning.

  • Wash your child’s hands and face frequently, especially before eating
  • Wash toys, countertops and windowsills and wet mop floors weekly with an all-purpose detergent
  • Don’t use imported foods that come in cans with wide seams
  • Avoid giving children imported candy or snacks containing chili or tamarind
  • Feed your child regular meals with a diet high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C and low in fat
  • Clean up paint chips and peeling paint safely
  • Allow cold water to run for a few minutes in the morning before using it for drinking, cooking, or  mixing formula in case there may be lead in your household pipes
  • Avoid using handmade, older, or imported dishes for food or drink preparation, storage, or serving-- unless you are sure they do not contain lead
  • Avoid using imported home remedies or cosmetics that contain lead
  • Take off your shoes before entering the house
    • Wipe shoes off - this will help prevent lead dust and  soil from getting into your house
  • Don’t let your child play in areas where bare soil is exposed
  • Vacuum carpets frequently to reduce household dust, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter
  • Change out of work clothes before entering the house or being in contact with family members
    • If you  work with lead at your job or hobby, take a shower at your workplace, if possible
    • Otherwise, shower and remove clothing immediately upon returning home
    • Handle clothing carefully and wash separately
  • When moving into a home, ask the owner about any problems with lead and know the age of the building
  • Before remodeling, ask a trained professional to test the paint in your house

In the United States, lead use has been restricted in several products over the past 50 years:

  • Lead in paint was greatly reduced in the 1950's, and severely restricted in 1978 by federal regulations
  • Lead solder in food cans was banned in the 1980s
  • Lead in gasoline was removed during the early 1990s

Visit the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch for more information on how lead poisoning can be prevented.


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How can a healthy diet prevent lead poisoning?

A good diet can help prevent lead from getting into your child’s body. These suggestions provide your child with a healthy diet and also prevent lead from being absorbed into your child’s body.

Your child should:

  • Eat regular meals and healthy snacks (four to six times a day)
  • Eat calcium-rich foods
    • Examples of calcium-rich foods include cheese, milk, spinach, salmon, yogurt, tofu, and leafy greens
  • Eat iron-rich foods
    • Examples of iron-rich foods include lean red meat, chicken or turkey without skin, raisins, beans, oatmeal, and split peas
  • Eat vitamin C to help the body absorb iron
    • Examples of vitamin C-rich foods include fruit juice, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi, and strawberries
  • Reduce fatty foods such as fried foods, fast foods, and “junk” foods
    • Examples of fatty foods to avoid include donuts, potato chips, and cupcakes
    • However, some fat in the diet is very important for brain development, especially under age two
    • Milk, butter, and olive oil are healtheir sources of fat

Visit the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch for more information on how a healthy diet can protect your children from lead poisoning.


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What services are available to the public?

Your local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (located in counties and some cities) offers a variety of free services including educational materials on lead sources, nutrition and blood lead testing recommendations to help you become more informed about lead poisoning and lead poisoning prevention.

  • Local lead programs have people who can counsel you on how to prevent lead poisoning or to help your child and family if it has been identified
  • Local lead programs have public health nurses who will come to your home and provide care management services for children with high blood lead levels, including a health assessment, monitoring for blood lead levels, counseling, care and next steps
    • These services are primarily for individuals under age 21
    • Occupational health services are also available for certain adults exposed to lead through work
  • The local county lead programs also have environmental investigators who will test your home and any place your child spends time (like a childcare facility or other caregiver home) to test for sources of lead and to provide information to reduce exposure or eliminate lead sources. 
    • These resources are for individuals under age 21 with high blood lead levels
    • Local programs can also provide information on companies that can do testing for other individuals

Visit the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch for more information on what services are available to the public.


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