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Lead is a poisonous, gray metal that can cause significant health problems. Unfortunately, you can't smell or taste lead - and the particles may be so small that you can't even see them. Lead is especially dangerous to small children, babies, and pregnant women. When lead builds up in our bodies, it leads to poisoning which affects the brain and nervous system. People with lead poisoning may never look, feel or act sick because lead first affects the learning ability, behavior and hearing. If the levels get high enough, lead poisoning can lead to a loss of energy, vomiting, coma and convulsions. Doctors, clinics, and hospitals can do a lead test to determine the levels of lead in your blood. If they find a potentially harmful level, they can help you to limit the effects of exposure as you can take steps to reduce your exposure before it gets serious. Therefore, it is very important for young children to have a lead test.

Where is lead found?

Before evidence became available describing the harmful effects of lead, it was used in many applications: gasoline, paint, and water pipes. Paint made before 1978 typically had a high lead content. This paint was used for a variety of applications including indoor and outdoor home painting, furniture, and even toy painting. Whenever anything rubs up against any lead painted coated surface (for example, the opening and closing of a window), lead dust is created. In addition, as this paint ages, it tends to chip and flake. The dust and paint chips contain high levels of lead and can easily be consumed by children. The dust can get on people's hands, clothes, or belongings.

Gasoline used to power our cars use to contain lead. This emitted significant amounts of lead into the air which eventually ended up in the soil. Soils near major roadways can contain high levels of lead from this source.

In addition, outdoor paint that has chipped or worn off can also contribute to lead levels in soil near homes or buildings. Although lead can no longer be used in water piping and water suppliers monitor lead levels in water as it leaves the drinking water facility, many homes still have lead water pipes or pipes with lead solder. If a home has lead water pipes, the water can absorb lead from the piped. Hot water absorbs more lead, and the longer the water sits, the more lead it can absorb.

Lead crystals and some ceramic dishes also contain lead that may be absorbed by food that is stored in them. You should never store food in lead crystal or poorly glazed pottery.

What you can do to reduce exposure.

  • Always wash your hands before eating
  • Always start with cold running tap water when cooking
  • Always let cold water run for 30 seconds before drinking
  • Always wash fruits and vegetables with soap and water
  • Wet-clean dust often - Use a wet cloth, mop or rag at least once a week
  • Try to use a powder dishwasher detergent with phosphates in areas where dust from lead paint or contaminated soil may build up
  • Have a lead blood test done
To have your home checked for possible lead hazards, or your child checked for lead poisoning call the Indiana Family Helpline 1-317-233-1325.

Or, visit these websites to learn more about lead poisoning:


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