What Is Lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal in our environment.  It has been used for centuries in many industrial processes.  The most common source of lead in New Jersey is paint that was used on the interior and exterior surfaces (such as porches, windows, and doors) of homes built before 1978.

How Are Children Exposed?

Young children can be exposed by:

  • swallowing leaded dust or soil that gets on their hands or other objects, that they put into their mouths such as toys
  • swallowing leaded paint chips
  • breathing dust or lead contaminated air
  • eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with lead

Why Is Exposure To Lead Harmful To Children?

Scientists have found that lead can disrupt the normal growth and development of a child’s brain and central nervous system.

At What Ages Are Children Most At Risk For Exposures To Lead?

The first six years, in particular the first three years of life, is the time when the human brain grows the fastest, and when the critical connections in the brain and nervous system that control thought, learning, hearing, movement, behavior and emotions are being formed. The normal behavior of children at this age – crawling, exploring, teething, and putting objects in their mouths – also puts them into contact with any lead that is present in their environment.

What Is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning is when there is too much lead in the blood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines lead poisoning in children as a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or above. This is based on research conducted by scientists that have been able to correlate problems in children at those blood lead levels.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lead Poisoning In Children?

Most children with lead poisoning will not have symptoms! Lead poisoning generally causes symptoms only at very high levels, and even then, those symptoms – stomachaches, anemia – are similar to those of much less serious illnesses. That is why it is important that all children be tested to determine how much lead is in their blood.

What Are The Effects Of Lead Poisoning In Children?

Very high levels of lead can cause seizures, severe brain damage resulting in developmental or intellectual disabilities, coma, and even death. Exposure to lead, even at relatively low levels, has been found to be associated with decreased hearing, lower intelligence, hyperactivity, attention deficits, and developmental problems that may make learning harder.

For more information about lead, its sources, lead screening and prevention, please visit:  http://www.nj.gov/health/childhoodlead