Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program works with Public Health Nursing, Environmental Health, the Child Health and Disability Prevention program, and the Public Health Laboratory to prevent, detect, and eliminate lead poisoning in children under six years of age.

The program includes outreach and education to family members, caregivers, and others involved in the lives of young children to raise awareness of lead hazards in the community, to educate about lead poisoning prevention, and to increase blood lead level testing in the county. Public Health Nursing provides case management services for children with elevated blood lead levels.

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Contact information:
Phone: (707) 441-5566
Fax: (707) 268-0415
Address: 908 7th Street, Eureka, CA

The most important thing to know about lead poisoning is it is preventable.

What Is Lead And Lead Poisoning?

  • Lead is a metal that occurs in nature. It can be found in the soil and many other things we use in everyday life, like car batteries, fishing weights, and keys.
  • Lead becomes dangerous when it enters our bodies through our mouths and noses. Anyone who eats, drinks, or breathes something that has too much lead can get lead poisoning.
  • Lead builds up in the body and is toxic to humans. Lead poisoning is especially harmful to young children, infants, and pregnant women. Even low levels of lead can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system, making if hard for a child to learn, pay attention, and behave.
  • Many children affected by lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Fortunately, lead poisoning can be detected and it can be prevented.

What Every Parent Should Know About Lead Poisoning In Children

  • Lead is most harmful to unborn babies and children under age six because lead is easily absorbed into their growing bodies.
  • Low-levels of lead in the body can cause reduced IQ and attention span, hyperactivity, slowed growth, reading and learning disabilities, hearing loss, and insomnia.
  • At very high levels of lead exposure, lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, coma, convulsions, and even death.
  • Your child may qualify for a free blood test for lead poisoning.

    If you have Medi-Cal or if you are in the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program (CHDP), the test is free. Many health insurance plans will also pay for this test.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do children get lead poisoning?
    The most common cause of lead poisoning is from lead paints that were used before 1978. Children can get lead poisoning by:
    • Putting hands or toys with lead dust on them in their mouths
    • Playing in dirt contaminated by lead
    • Eating lead paint chips that peel off walls
    • Using some home remedies and cosmetics

  • How do I know if my child has lead poisoning?
    In most cases there are no symptoms of lead poisoning. For children at risk for lead exposure, a simple fingerstick blood test can prevent the irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning.

    Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. The only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is to have a blood test for lead.

  • Is there a cure for lead poisoning?
    Except for severely poisoned children, there is no medical treatment for lead poisoning. The only way to prevent lead poisoning is to remove the source of the exposure. Removing the lead from a personís environment helps to lower the blood-lead level.

  • Should pregnant women be concerned about lead poisoning?
    Yes, lead can be passed from the pregnant mother to the child. Women should avoid exposure to lead during pregnancy.

Testing Your Child For Lead

  • How Do I Know If My Child Is Lead Poisoned?
    Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is to have a blood test for lead.

  • Can Lead Hurt My Child?
    Yes, it can. Children can get sick if they eat lead paint or breathe lead in dust. Lead poisoning can make it hard for your child to learn, pay attention, and behave. Lead poisoning can also slow growth and impair hearing.

  • When Should My Child Get Tested For Lead Poisoning?
    If your children are one or two years old, you should get them tested for lead poisoning. Also, have your children tested if they are between the ages of one and six years and have not been tested for lead before.

Remember, a blood lead test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning.

Where Is Lead Found?


Lead In Paint:

Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning in children. Lead can be found in paint that is on the inside and outside of older homes and buildings. Paint inside home can wear down and mix with household dust and dirt. It can then get on toys and fingers, which children put in their mouths.

Lead In Soil:

Almost all lead in soil come from lead-based paint chips flaking from homes, factory pollution, and from the use of leaded gasoline. Over time lead builds up in the soil. Lead levels in soil are usually higher in cities, near roadways and industries that use lead, and next to homes where crumbling lead paint has fallen into the soil.


Lead On The Job:

Lead is found in certain workplaces. Painters and contractors who work in homes built before 1978 may disturb old paint and get the dust on themselves. Lead is used at places that make or recycle batteries, repair radiators, and at lead smelters. You cannot see lead dust, but you can take it home from your job on your hands, face, and clothes. Lead dust can get in your car, on your furniture, and in your carpet. Your child can swallow this lead dust and be poisoned.

Lead In Home Remedies and Cosmetics:

Lead is in some home remedies and cosmetics. These include: Azarcon, Greta, Pay~loo~ah, Ghasard, Bala Goli, Kandu, Kohl, Surma, and Kajal. Some of these are almost 100% lead.


Lead In Dishes and Glassware:

Lead may be in the paint or glazes of ceramic dishes or pottery. Lead crystal often contains high levels of lead. Lead can leach into food and drinks. Be careful with the type of china, pottery, or glassware you buy if you plan to use it everyday. Store food or drinks only in lead-safe containers.

Candies Imported From Mexico:

Lead has been found in some candies imported from Mexico. Candy ingredients such as chili powder and tamarind may be a source of lead. Lead has been found in the wrappers of some imported candies. The ink of these plastic or paper wrappers may contain lead that leaches into the candy.

People selling these candies may not know if the candy contains lead. You cannot tell by looking at or tasting a candy if it contains lead. Eating even small amounts of lead can be harmful. There is no safe blood lead level. Lead poisoning from candies can cause illness.

For more information and to view candies that have tested high for lead read about "Toxic Treats" at

Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Lead Poisoning

  • Keep your home as clean and dust-free as possible.
    The best way to clean up lead dust is to regularly wet mop your floors, wipe window ledges and wash all surfaces with water and household detergent.
  • Wash your childís hands often,
    especially before eating and sleeping. Also wash your childís toys often. Lead dust can stick to hands and toys that children put in their mouths.

  • Do not let your child chew on painted surfaces or eat paint chips.
    Lead from old paint is the most common cause of lead poisoning.

  • Encourage healthy eating habits.
    Eating regular and health meals may make it harder for lead to hurt your child. Meals should include fruits and vegetables as well as calcium-rich foods (milk, cheese, yogurt, corn tortillas, tofu or bean curd) and iron-rich foods (meat, chicken, iron-fortified cereals, raisins, and dried fruit).

  • Never sand, burn or scrape paint
    unless you know that it does not contain lead.

  • Test painted surfaces for lead
    in any area that you plan to remodel, before you begin the work. If lead is in the paint, learn how to handle the paint safely.

  • Change out of your work clothes
    and take a shower before coming home from work, if you work with lead at your job. Lead dust brought home on the clothes of workers can spread in the house and poison children.

  • Do not use older, imported, or handmade dishes
    for serving, preparing, or storing food or drink unless you know it does not contain lead. For information about testing for lead in dishes, call Humboldt County Public Health Branch at (707) 268-2132.

  • Avoid hobbies that use lead.
    Hobbies that use lead include soldering or making stained glass, bullets, or fishing sinkers.

  • Do not use home remedies or cosmetics that contain lead:
    • Azarcon
    • Greta
    • Pay~loo~ah
    • Alkohl
    • Kohl
    These remedies often contain a lot of lead and can make children sick.

  • Keep furniture away from damaged paint.
    Do not place cribs, playpens, bed or high chairs next to areas where paint is chipping or peeling, or can be chewed.

Food Tips to Help Protect Your Child From Lead Poisoning

It is harder for lead to get into the blood when your child eats:
  • Regular meals and snacks
  • Foods high in calcium
  • Foods high in iron
  • Eating less fat may protect your child from lead poisoning too.

Healthy eating can help protect your child from lead poisoning.

Lead Poisoning Resources and Links

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