Large amounts of lead in the environment, your home and even your drinking water can be dangerous to people, especially children. But do you know why?

Health Effects of Lead in Children:

  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Lower IQ and Hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing Problems
  • Anemia
  • Ingesting lead can cause seizures, coma and even death – in rare cases

Health Effects of Lead in Pregnant Women:

Lead is actually something that can accumulate in our bodies over time – stored in bones, right along with calcium. During a woman’s pregnancy it is released from the mother’s bones and can pass to the baby, even through the breast milk – according to the EPA.

  • Cause the baby to be born too early or too small
  • Hurt the baby’s brain, kidney’s, and nervous system
  • Increase the likelihood of learning or behavioral problems
  • Puts the mother at risk for miscarriage

Health Effects of Lead in Adults:

  • Cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Reproductive problems (in both men and women)

Tips on Lessening Your Exposure to Lead Poisoning:

  • Inspect and maintain all painted surfaces to prevent paint deterioration
  • Address water damage quickly and completely
  • Keep your home clean and dust-free
  • Clean around painted areas where friction can generate dust, such as doors, windows, and drawers. Wipe these areas with a wet sponge or rag to remove paint chips or dust
  • Use only cold water to prepare food and drinks
  • Flush water outlets used for drinking or food preparation
  • Clean debris out of outlet screens or faucet aerators on a regular basis
  • Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often
  • Teach children to wipe and remove their shoes and wash hands after playing outdoors
  • Ensure that your family members eat well-balanced meals. Children with healthy diets absorb less lead.

Sources of Lead Exposure Include:

  • Home (paint in homes built before 1978)
  • Schools or childcare buildings (lead can taste sweet)
  • Products (candy, makeup and jewelry)
  • Drinking water (water pumping through lead pipes with no filtration system)
  • Air outside (polluted air)
  • Soil
  • Dust

What Are Symptoms:

Lead poisoning can be hard to detect, and even those who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their blood. Signs don’t usually show until dangerous levels have accumulated in the body – according to the Mayo Clinic.

In Children/Infants Look for:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren't food (pica)
  • Low birth weight

In Adults Look for:

  • High blood pressure
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Difficulties with memory or concentration
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood disorders
  • Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women

According to the CDC, even low levels of lead can seriously compromise children under 6 years old. If a child tests positive for 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in his or her blood, that is considered a level of concern. This allows everyone involved to take action sooner, before the exposure becomes into something more life-threatening.

The EPA, Mayo Clinic and CDC were all contributors to this article.