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Learn About Lead Safety

Release Date: June 26, 2019
This July, the Sussex County Division of Health and Office of Public Health Nursing encourage you to learn about lead safety.

Lead is a toxic metal that was commonly used in paint, water pipes, gasoline and other products. The use of lead has been reduced, but it still can be found in and around your home.

Today, at least four million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead. Around half a million U.S. children between the ages of 1-5 years have blood lead levels that are above five micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL). This is the reference level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that public health actions be taken. However, there is no safe blood lead level for children.

The most hazardous sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust. Paints containing lead were banned for use in housing in 1978. Homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some of this paint. Lead-based paint is unsafe if it peels, chips or cracks. Harmful lead dust is created when windows, doors, edges of stairs, rails or other lead-based painted surfaces wear away over time. Lead can be inhaled or ingested. A home can be tested for lead and hazards can be identified and controlled or removed.

Children are at particular risk because they are growing very quickly. Since they tend to put their hands and objects in their mouths, they can swallow lead dust. Children who live at or below the poverty level and live in older housing are at the greatest risk. Lead can harm adults as well. If a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, the baby's brain, kidneys and nervous system can be harmed. Workers in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, remediation and recreation can be at risk for lead exposure.

Exposure to lead can seriously harm an individual's health - especially children's. This includes:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Lower IQ
  • Decreased ability to pay attention
  • Underperformance in school

It is important to know that lead poisoning can be prevented. Follow these tips:

  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces covered in lead-based paints
  • Regularly wash children's hands and toys
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe windows and other surfaces
  • Take off shoes when entering the house to prevent bringing in lead-contaminated soils
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil - provide them with sandboxes if possible
  • Children and pregnant women should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing construction or renovation
  • Avoid using containers and cookware that are not shown to be lead free
  • Try to use cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking and making baby formula - hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead

If you are concerned that your child or another family member has been exposed to lead, call your healthcare provider. Contact the Sussex County Division of Health about testing for lead in the home at 973-579-0370 or 973-579-0570.

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