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Lead Poisoning

Lead is a highly toxic metal, producing a range of adverse human health and environmental effects, particularly in children and fetuses. Lead has the ability to impede the development and function of every organ and system in the body. Once it enters the body, lead travels through the bloodstream. A small portion of the ingested lead remains in the bloodstream, while some is deposited and stored in the kidneys and brain. Most, however, is stored in the bones. This lead moves in and out of the bones as the body absorbs nutrients and grows. Lead stays in the body for a long time. Therefore, one can be lead poisoned through high exposure to lead during a short time period or through low exposure over a long period of time.

Source of lead exposure

  • Lead based paint used inside or outside the home.
  • Soil contaminated by industries that make lead products.
  • Soil around buildings painted with lead based paint that has chipped off.
  • Food grown in gardens next to buildings where leaded paint has chipped off into the soil.
  • Dust created by removing lead paint (indoors and outside) as part of renovation.
  • Colored inks used in newspapers and magazines, or on plastic bags, such as bread wrappers.
  • Older furniture, such as cribs, and some toys coated with lead paint or lead based stains.
  • Pottery made with leaded glaze (usually from foreign countries.)
  • Lead pipes and plumbing fixtures (check with your landlord or plumber.)
  • Fumes from burning painted wood and some printed materials.
  • Hobbies that involve lead, such as making stained glass, lead sinkers, fishing lures or bullets.

How to prevent lead poisoning

  • Have children 6 months to 6 years of age tested regularly. Ask your pediatrician to test your child.
  • Keep your children away from peeling paint; don't let the child chew on painted surfaces.
  • Wash your own and your child's hands frequently to rinse off any dust or dirt that may contain lead.
  • Wash your child's toys often, especially infant teething toys.
  • Do not use warm or hot tap water for making infant formula or for cooking. Older hot water heaters may have made with leaded solder.
  • Flush water from your tap until it runs cold. Flush faucets for 2-3 minutes when the water hasn't been used for more than 6 hours. Use the flushed water for houseplants or other non consumable purposes.
  • Wet mop dusty surfaces at least once a week with a heavy duty household cleaner.
  • Do not use decorative pottery or ceramic ware for food storage or servic
  • Plant grass and shrubs over bare dirt in the yard.
  • Prepare and serve meals high in Vitamin C, iron and calcium to help prevent lead from being absorbed into the body.
Sources of Iron Sources of Calcium Sources of Vitamin C
Liver Milk Citrus Fruits
Fortified Cereal Yogurt Green Leafy Vegetables
Cooked Legumes
(Peas, Beans)
Cheese Tomatoes
Spinach Cooked Greens Cauliflower
Beef   Sweet Potatoes
  • If you work with lead on the job, don't bring it home.
  • Shower and change your clothes before you go home. Wash your work clothes separately from other laundry. Check with your employer or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about safety requirements when working on battery reclamation, radiator repairs, home improvements, bridge repair, plumbing, or weapons.
    1. Test pre 1978 houses for lead paint; take care of peeling and chipping paint, and avoid exposure to dust from renovation and abatement projects.
    2. Test for lead before remodeling, or repairing an older home; if the home contains lead based paint, a trained contractor should do the work. If a homeowner plans to remove lead based paint, he or she should seek advice from the health department before doing so.
    3. Have tap water tested for lead by a state approved laboratory if the house is over 40 years old or has plumbing over ten years old.
    4. Consider replacing windows if they are covered in lead paint; friction bearing surfaces on windows can be an important source of lead dust.
    5. Keep children's play areas away from buildings painted with deteriorating lead based paint.
    6. In high exposure areas, take off shoes before entering the house, wet mop floors, and wash window wells often to get rid of lead dust; unless using a HEPA vacuum, vacuuming can spread lead dust.
    7. Shower and change clothes as soon as possible if exposed to lead at work or through such hobbies as ceramics or stained glass.
    8. Support legislative efforts to promote recycling of materials that contain lead.

This information came from the National Lead Information Clearinghouse. For more information on lead poisoning contact the West Virginia Poison Center, local health department or call the National Lead Information Clearinghouse toll free at 1-800-LEAD-FYI.