Lead Poisoning Prevention Guidance for Parents

Boy Chewing Toy

Children who have lead poisoning don’t look or act sick. But lead can cause serious health problems.

Children can get lead poisoning in their own home, apartment, or day care. Lead is found in buildings built before 1978 and can also come from work or hobbies—such as auto body work, painting or scraping paint, making stained glass, or casting lead toys, sinkers, or shots.

Young children are commonly exposed to lead by swallowing it. Children may eat, chew, or suck on lead-painted objects—such as windowsills, toys, or furniture. Over time, lead paint on surfaces crumbles into invisible dust—especially from opening and closing doors and windows—that contaminates homes and soil. Even if the home has been repainted since 1978, the opening and closing of doors and windows can release lead dust from the original lead paint. Lead dust or soil clings to hands, toys, and objects that children put in their mouths. Young children are at highest risk because their developing bodies absorb lead more easily.

Adults who work jobs that involve lead—such as painting, plumbing, metal production, building renovation, demolition, bridge work, or battery manufacturing, are at risk of lead poisoning. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or Vermont OSHA have more information on occupational exposure to lead. Workers can also bring lead home on shoes and work clothes, which places family members at risk of lead exposure. Find out how you can prevent take-home lead exposure.

Lead poisoning can be prevented—as long as you know what hazards to look for.

Health Effects of Lead Poisoning

There is no safe level of lead in the body. Lead can harm anyone, but young children and pregnant women are at special risk. The harm done by lead may never go away. Too much lead in the body, or lead poisoning, in children can:

  • Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
  • Slow down growth and development
  • Make it hard to learn
  • Damage hearing and speech
  • Cause behavior problems

Curious to learn how lead poisoning damages our brains? Watch this video.

In pregnant women, lead can increase the risk of miscarriage and cause babies to be born too early, too small, or with learning or behavior problems. In adults, lead can cause high blood pressure and result in decreased fertility in men.

blood lead testing

All children should be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2. Talk to your child’s health care provider about testing your child for lead poisoning.

The only way to find out if someone has been exposed to too much lead is by a blood test.

The Health Department recommends that all children be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2. Depending on the result of that test, your child's health care provider may recommend additional testing.

If you are an adult who works with lead, we recommend that you get a blood test to learn how much lead is in your bloodstream and that you discuss the results with your health care provider.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your health care provider about whether you should have your blood tested for lead

For additional information or to report a high blood lead level, call the Healthy Homes Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 802-863-7220 or 800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont).

Read the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Reports to the Legislature

Find More Resources

Let Little Emmett show how quick and easy lead testing is!

Resources for Parents: Lead Poisoning Prevention, Lead Testing, and Lead-Safe Practices
Title Description
Lead Poisoning Prevention A fact sheet on lead poisoning basics.
Finding Lead in Your Home A booklet about sources of lead in paint, soil, on the job, water, hobbies and pastimes, and consumer products.
Henry and Fred Learn about Lead - Book This book teaches young children about the dangers of lead poisoning and how they can protect themselves.
Pregnancy and Lead Poisoning A fact sheet on the health effects of lead on pregnant women and their babies, how to protect babies before birth, and possible lead exposures.
Lead in Paint A fact sheet on how to find out if your home has lead paint, temporary measures to reduce your child’s risk of lead poisoning, and solutions to reduce your family’s risk of lead poisoning.
Lead in Drinking Water Facts about lead in drinking water and how to test for it.
Lead in Soil A fact sheet on possible sources of lead in soil around your home, how to test your soil for lead, and how to protect children from lead in soil.
Healthy Yard: Is Your Yard Lead Proof? EPA’s guide on how to reduce or remove lead exposures in your yard.
Lead-Safe Cleaning Guide Tips on how to clean to get rid of lead dust and help prevent lead poisoning.
Lead and Your Job: What Adults Should Know About Lead Poisoning A fact sheet how adults can become exposed lead from their occupation, what types of jobs where lead can be found, signs and symptoms of lead poisoning, and how to reduce exposure as well as children’s exposure lead that may be taken home from the job.
Lead-Based Paint Safety A field guide for painting, home maintenance, and renovation work from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. To receive a copy through the mail, or on CD, call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323.
Your Child's Lead Test A fact sheet about the two different types of lead tests, what the results mean, and what to do when you receive the result.
Blood Lead Screening Guidelines Guidelines for health care providers that outlines when to test children for lead, when to confirm capillary blood lead tests, and other indications for when screen for lead.
Henry and Fred Learn about Lead - Video This educational video teaches children about how to prevent lead poisoning.
Translated Fact Sheets There are Arabic, Nepali, and Somali translations of these materials: Lead Poisoning Prevention, Your Child's Lead Test, and Finding Lead in Your Home.
Translated Videos - Healthy Homes: Prevent Lead Poisoning There are Arabic, Nepali, and Somali videos on lead poisoning prevention and lead testing.
Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Guide Learn about lead, how to protect your family from lead poisoning, and lead-safe renovating requirements for contractors.
Don’t Spread Lead If you are working on a house built before 1978, read this booklet from the New England Lead Coordinating Committee before you start. It provides step-by-step advice on small renovation jobs for do-it-yourselfers. It will help you protect your family from lead poisoning.
How to Do a Home Lead Dust Test This is a step-by-step video explaining how to use a test kit to test your home for lead dust.