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Q: How Am I Exposed?

The most common source of lead exposure for children is lead-based paint that has deteriorated into paint chips and lead dusts. Lead has also been found in painted toys that are manufactured outside the U.S. and in metal charms and other children’s jewelry. Other sources include:

  • Plumbing systems which were constructed with lead pipes or solder can appear in tap water;
  • Soil can be a significant source of lead exposure for children who live or spend their time in buildings or playgrounds that were near heavy traffic when lead was added to gasoline;
  • Various hobbies such as soldering glass or metal, making bullets or glazing pottery can expose people to lead;
  • Lead contaminates some imported candy, especially from Mexico;
  • Lead has been found in some traditional (folk) medicines used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian and Hispanic cultures;
  • Cosmetics and hair dyes may contain lead.

Q: What Can I Do?

  • Eat a healthful and balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and iron, which makes the body absorb less lead than those with an unhealthy diet;
  • Check toy recalls and other items that have been found to contain lead from the Consumer Product Safety Commission website;
  • Carefully consider whether to purchase imported or domestically manufactured toys, jewelry, lunchboxes, candy, ceramics, lipstick and other items that may contain lead;
  • Wash your hands thoroughly if you work in a profession where you may be exposed;
  • Keep your house clean: Damp-mop floors, damp-wipe surfaces and frequently wash a child’s hands, pacifiers and toys to reduce exposure to lead. Have everyone remove shoes when in the house to prevent the transfer of lead from soil onto floors and carpets;
  • Test for lead in your home if it was built prior to 1978 and consult a professional if you want to remove lead paint from your home;
  • Get yourself or your child tested for lead if you suspect lead poisoning.

Adapted from the Practice Prevention Columns on the Collaborative on Health and the Environment website, and other sources as indicated.