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 be poisoned by lead in their own home, at day care, or in a caretaker's home (e.g. grandparent's home). Dust from lead-based paint is the major source of lead poisoning among children. Lead can also come from your job or hobbies—such as auto body work, painting or scraping paint, making stained glass, or casting lead toys, sinkers or bullets.

In 1978, lead was banned from house paint, but about 70% of Vermont homes were built before 1978 and likely contain lead-based paint. 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-based paint.

Young children are commonly exposed to lead by swallowing it. Lead dust or soil clings to hands, toys and objects that children put in their mouths. Children may eat, chew or suck on lead-painted objects—such as windowsills, toys or furniture. Young children are at highest risk because their developing bodies absorb lead more easily.

Lead poisoning can be prevented. Learn more about lead hazards and how to prevent lead poisoning

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.

testing your child for lead

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 through a blood test. Depending on the result, the health care provider may recommend additional testing.

If you are an adult who works with lead, we recommend that you get a blood lead test and discuss the results with your health care provider.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your health care provider about whether you should be 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
Title Description
Lead Poisoning Prevention

Read this fact sheet on lead poisoning prevention.

Finding Lead in Your Home
Find out where lead is found, if you or your family is at risk, and what you can do to protect your child from lead poisoning.
Henry and Fred Learn About Lead - Book Teach young children about the dangers of lead poisoning and how they can protect themselves with this children's book.
Pregnancy and Lead Poisoning Read this fact sheet on the health effects of lead on pregnant women and their unborn babies and how to protect babies from lead exposures before birth.
Lead in Paint Read this fact sheet on how to find out if your home has lead paint and how to reduce your family’s risk of lead poisoning.
Lead in Drinking Water Learn about lead in drinking water and how to test for it.
Lead in Soil Read this 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? Find out how to reduce or remove lead exposures from your yard with this EPA guide.
Lead-Safe Cleaning Guide Check out 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 Read this fact sheet on how adults can become exposed lead while on the job and how to reduce children’s exposure to lead that may be taken home from the job.
Lead-Based Paint Safety This field guide for painting, home maintenance, and renovation work is from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323 to be mailed a copy.
Your Child's Lead Test Read this 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 Review the guidelines for health care providers that outline when to test children for lead.
Henry and Fred Learn About Lead - Video Here's a video version of the book Henry and Fred Learn about Lead.
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA'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 This step-by-step guide from the New England Lead Coordinating Committee is for do-it-yourselfers and offers advice on how to protect your family from lead poisoning during small renovation projects.
How to Do a Home Lead Dust Test Watch this step-by-step video explaining how to test your home for lead dust.
Lead Information for Refugees and New Americans

You and your children may have come in contact with lead before coming to the United States. Lead is found in common products—such as amulets, trinkets, pottery and candy. It can also be in cosmetics like Thanakha, Surma, Kajal and Kohl, and in traditional remedies like Gaw Mo Dah. If you brought these items into the United States or receive them from friends or family, you can ask the Health Department if they are safe.

The Health Department recommends every child between six months and 16 years old get tested for lead when coming to the United States. One more test should be done three to six months later. In addition, children need to be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2. Your health care provider can test you or your family for lead or can tell you where to get one.

See translated lead poisoning prevention fact sheets
Watch translated lead poisoning prevention videos