Skip to content

Home & Health

Lead

If your house or apartment was built before 1978, there is a high likelihood that it contains lead paint. Lead-based paint, even if hidden under layers of newer lead-free paint, can break down because of age, poor maintenance or household repairs and create environmental home health hazards. Lead poisoning is a preventable disease.

Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recognize that there is no safe level of lead poisoning.

The Facts

Lead poisoning affects an estimated 535,000 children younger than 6 annually in the United States. Lead is a home health hazard that can harm your child’s brain, causing lifelong learning and behavior problems. The symptoms of lead poisoning are not easy to detect, but its effects are long-lasting. Lead paint also has large societal impacts, including IQ points, increased instances of juvenile delinquency, and reduced earnings over the lifetime of a lead-poisoned child’s existence. Each dollar invested in lead paint hazard control results in a return of $17-$221 dollars in savings from reduced costs related to crime, delinquency, and special education.1

Sources

The primary source of lead poisoning is lead-based paint and related lead dust. Lead dust in the home is caused by chipping, peeling, flaking or deteriorating lead-based paint and can exist in even the cleanest of homes. When lead dust is ingested or inhaled, even in minuscule amounts, it can cause significant and irreversible brain damage as well as other health problems. A lead dust equivalent of only three granules of sugar can poison a child.

In addition, lead poisoning can come from a variety of other areas. These include lead in water, lead in ceramics and toys, and lead dust created by factories that can settle in soil. As a result, it is vital to check to ensure that lead does not exist as an environmental factor in your home. See the “Actions You Can Take” section below for more information on keeping your family safe from lead poisoning.

Effects

  • Children who are lead poisoned are 7 times more likely to drop out of school and 6 times more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system.2
  • Learning disabilities that can affect children who have been lead poisoned include: violent, aggressive behavior; speech delays; Attention Deficit Disorder; hyperactivity; diminished IQ; hearing and memory problems; and reduced motor control and balance.
  • At extreme levels, lead poisoning can create severe developmental disabilities, coma, convulsions, and death.
  • Lead poisoning effects on adults include: 46 percent increased rate of early mortality; 16 to 19 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease; hypertension; depression; reproductive problems; and complications related to osteoporosis.3

Actions You Can Take

What can you do to limit exposure?

Do you live in Maryland? Learn about GHHI’s Resident Education Services to learn what services may be available for lead case management.

GET HELP NOW

Contact GHHI to see how you can keep your home safe from lead.

  1. Gould E. “Childhood lead poisoning: Conservative estimates of the social and economic benefits of lead hazard control,” Environmental Health Perspectives 117: 1162-1167, July 2009
  2. “Childhood Exposure to Lead: A Common Cause of School ” Needleman HL. Phi Delta Kappan. September  1992.
  3. Tarrago, Oscar, MD/MPH. "Lead Toxicity Case Studies In Environmental Medicine." Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - Case Studies in Environmental Medicine, June 12, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/lead/docs/CSEM-Lead_toxicity_508.pdf.