What is Lead-Based Paint Poisoning? 

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal that can cause serious health problems if eaten, touched, or inhaled. In the past, lead was an ingredient in paint used on the interior and exterior of houses and buildings. Though the United States banned the use of all lead-based paint in 1978, lead poisoning from paint in older buildings is a real health threat. 


Lead poisoning can affect anyone, but children are especially at risk because they may touch or eat peeling paint chips that contain lead. Children’s bodies are still developing, and their brain and nervous system are very sensitive to the effects of lead, which can lead to learning and behavioral problems, delayed puberty and brain damage. Lead can also damage organs, the blood, and the digestive system. At very high levels, lead poisoning can even be fatal. Lead is not naturally found in the human body, and any amount detected in children is considered lead poisoning. 


Before you sign a rental agreement and move into a house or apartment built before 1978, U.S. federal law requires your landlord to share information about lead-based paint hazards. In addition, states and cities have their own laws that address lead contamination and lead poisoning. Some states and cities have very strict lead laws that go beyond the federal laws. The state of New York, for instance, requires children from the ages of 6 months to 6 years old to be tested for lead during routine medical visits. For more information on specific lead laws in your state or city, message us: https://www.facebook.com/SettleInUS



How Can Children Get Lead Poisoning from Old Paint?

Old lead paint can easily crack and peel. Children may eat chips of this paint that fall on the floor. Cracking lead paint also releases tiny particles of lead dust into the air that can settle on toys or other objects that children put in their mouth. Children can also get lead poisoning from licking or chewing on windowsills, furniture, door frames, countertops and other items that may be covered in lead-based paint or dust. Also, if lead paint is scraped or sanded for re-painting, it releases lead dust that can be scattered all around the home and must be thoroughly cleaned by a certified professional. 



What Are the Symptoms of Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning symptoms usually don’t appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated in the body. Therefore, it is important to understand the threat of—and be proactive about—any lead hazards in your home. Symptoms of lead poisoning in children include:


  • Learning difficulties
  • Changes in behavior
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures



How Do I Know if an Apartment or House Has Lead-Based Paint?

Unless a house or apartment has been inspected by a certified lead inspector, there is no real way to know if there is a lead paint hazard in a home or building built before 1978. Be sure that the landlord is following all federal and state laws requiring lead testing and disclosure. In some states, a lead inspection is required if a child under a certain age will be living in an apartment or house built before 1978. 


What Steps Should I Take to Address Potential Poisoning from Lead-Based Paint?

  • Find out if your home or the home you intend to rent was built before 1978. Sometimes this can be done by searching a real estate website like Realtor, Zillow or Trulia. This information may also be found online on a state or city database.
  • Insist that your landlord give you all legally required legal lead hazard disclosures before you move in.
  • Tell the landlord if you have a new baby, or if a new child under six years old lives with you.
  • If you have peeling paint, notify your landlord.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor about lead.
  • Have children under the age of 6 tested for lead at least once a year.


If you discover that you are living in a home built before 1978 that has not been deleaded, here are things you can do to temporarily reduce the chances of your child becoming lead poisoned:

  • Clean your home regularly with paper towels and any household detergent and warm water to wipe up dust and loose paint chips. Rub hard to get rid of more lead. When you are done, put the dirty paper towels in a plastic bag and throw them out. The areas to clean most often are windowsills, doorframes and floors.
  • Wash your child’s hands often (especially before eating or sleeping) and wash your child’s toys, bottles and pacifiers often.


Remember, the only way to permanently lower the risk of your child getting lead poisoned is to have your home deleaded if it contains lead paint.


Disclaimer: This article was created in partnership with Refugee Housing Solutions. Refugee Housing Solutions is a project of Church World Service under an agreement paid for by the U.S. Department of State.