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Lead Poisoning Information for Parents

Things parents can do to prevent lead poisoning

Below is a list of things parents can do to prevent lead poisoning. Parents can:

Be Aware

Children become lead poisoned by:

  • Eating lead paint chips and soil
  • Breathing in lead-contaminated dust.
  • Drinking water contaminated by lead-based pipes
  • Chewing on toys or furniture covered in lead paint
  • Eating food prepared in imported pottery, or eating imported spices or candy contaminated with lead
  • Using eye make-up, like Kohl, Kajal, or Surma, that is contaminated with lead.
  • Using folk medicines, like Greta and Azarcon, that are contaminated with lead.

Click here to learn more about sources of lead.

Know the signs

Signs of lead poisoning are hard to see. But lead is harmful and can cause:

  • Lowered IQ and learning problems.
  • Trouble concentrating and behavioral problems.
  • Anemia (a disease caused by low iron levels), which can result in tiredness, shortness of breath, and difficulty paying attention.
  • In adulthood, children who were exposed to lead are more likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease.

Get a blood test

The only way to know if your child is exposed to lead is by getting a blood test. Ask your child’s pediatrician to test your child’s blood for lead.

Children ages 6 MONTHS TO 6 YEARS of age should be tested for lead, especially if living in a home that was built before 1978.

Many providers screen for lead when children are 12 and 24 months of age. At those appointments, a medical provider will/may/can give your child a blood lead test if you live in a ZIP Code that is at high risk for lead.

High Risk ZIP Codes in Suburban Cook County include:
  • 60104 Bellwood
  • 60402 Berwyn/Stickney
  • 60406 Blue Island
  • 60513 Brookfield
  • 60804 Cicero
  • 60201 Evanston
  • 60202 Evanston
  • 60456 Hometown
  • 60043 Kenilworth
  • 60534 Lyons
  • 60153 Maywood
  • 60301 Oak Park
  • 60302 Oak Park
  • 60304 Oak Park
  • 60305 River Forest
  • 60546 Riverside
  • 60501 Summit/Argo

If you don’t live in a high-risk ZIP Code, medical providers should give you this screening questionnaire to fill out. If you answer yes to any question, your child should get a blood lead test.

Proof of lead testing or screening must be provided before admission to childcare, preschool or kindergarten.

In suburban Cook County, CCDPH will visit any children with blood test results of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) and higher. We will provide an in-home inspection to determine if there is lead-based paint present, and a home visit by a public health nurse.

Get rid of lead dust and paint chips

One of the easiest ways to prevent childhood lead poisoning is to get rid of lead dust and paint chips. If you live in a home that was built before 1978 and/or suspect your home has lead-based paint:

  • If you rent, inform your landlord or property management company of any peeling or chipping paint.
  • Wipe window sills and window wells with soap and water to remove lead dust and paint chips. Wash all toys, pacifiers, bottles, blankets, sheets, rugs and curtains often.
  • Teach and practice hand-washing. Have children wash their hands for 20 seconds after playing outside, before eating and before bedtime.
  • Take off your shoes when entering your home to keep dust out.

Lead dust and chips can only come from lead-based paint. Lead-based paint was banned from household use in 1978, so only homes built before then are at risk for lead paint hazards. If you are not sure of the age of your home, visit the Cook County Assessor’s website. Enter your address on the “Property Search” page to find the age of your home.

Protect your child from exposure to lead hazards

  • Keep children away from peeling paint and/or avoid putting paint chips in their mouth
  • Keep children’s play area clean and dust-free.
  • Wipe down window sills and window wells with soap and water to remove lead dust and paint chips. Do this often to prevent chips and dust from piling up.
  • Wash the floor often with a damp mop to clean up dust that can blow onto the floor from the open window.
  • Wash the curtains and rugs often.
  • Wash blankets often, especially any that young children play on when they play on the floor.
  • Wash toys, pacifiers and bottles often, and after they fall to the floor.
  • Have children wash their hands for 20 seconds after playing outside, before eating and before bedtime. Hand washing helps to prevent lead poisoning.
  • Take off your shoes when entering your home to keep dust out.
  • Check for product recalls due to lead concerns on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Prepare and eat healthy meals/snacks

Children with empty stomachs absorb more lead than children with full stomachs. Provide your child with four to six small meals during the day. The following nutrients can help protect your child from lead poisoning: Iron, Calcium, Vitamin C and small snacks between meals.

Contact us

For more information on lead poisoning hazard reduction and making a healthy home, please contact the Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Unit at 708-633-8054.