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Lead Facts

Filed Under:
Publication Number: P3570
View as PDF: P3570.pdf

What Is Lead?

Lead may be found in many places:

  • Copper pipes with lead solder made or installed before 1986.
  • Tap water (especially well water)
  • Pottery/ceramic ware
  • Lead-based paint
  • Keys/key chains
  • Porcelain tubs and sinks
  • Soil and dust
  • Brass faucets
  • Electrical cords
  • Batteries
  • Toy jewelry
  • Paint on toys
  • Imported candies/foods/home remedies
  • Zipper pulls and snap closures
  • Air/soil near airports (aviation fuel)
  • Imported vinyl/plastic mini-blinds bought before 1997

Protect Your Child from Lead

  • Run your faucet for at least 5 seconds before using it, and only use cold water for drinking, cooking, or making baby formula.
  • Regularly clean your faucet aerators, as lead particles can accumulate on the screen. Also consider using a filter that is certified to remove lead.
  • Have your water tested for lead. If you have lead service lines in your home, replace them.
  • Clean your children’s hands with soap and water or baby wipes after they play outside and before meals.
  • Keep children from eating paint chips, dust, or dirt. Keep them from touching window troughs (wells) in old homes and outside surfaces (steps and porch floors) near old homes. Use a wet mop or wet cloth with an all-purpose cleaner to clear areas of dust or paint chips on window sills, interior floors, porch floors, ledges, and outside steps. Keep children’s hands and toys off these areas. Window sills that are not very smooth might be hard to clean and can be covered with contact paper or plastic. Surfaces that children touch often should be smooth and easily cleaned. Keep children from eating while sitting on floors or steps.
  • Anyone in the household who works with lead should avoid wearing work shoes while walking on steps and floors where children put their hands. They should also avoid wearing work clothes while sitting on furniture or car seats where children put their hands.
  • Wash your children’s toys often.
  • Give your children a diet rich in vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Some good sources are milk, oranges, tomatoes, eggs, bread, cereal, meat, and green, leafy vegetables. Since children absorb more lead on an empty stomach, give them something to eat every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Have your home checked for lead before you remodel. DO NOT scrape or sand lead-based paint.

Signs or Symptoms of Possible Lead Poisoning

Most children do not have any obvious signs or abnormal symptoms. Signs of damage sometimes show later; therefore, it is important to have their blood lead level tested by a medical professional, whether they show symptoms or not. These are some signs and symptoms of lead poisoning:

  • Irritability
  • Hyperactivity
  • Frequent tiredness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Behavioral problems
  • Developmental delay
  • Stunted growth
  • Hearing loss
  • Learning problems

Convulsions, coma, and death can occur at very high lead levels, which are extremely rare.

It is helpful to track milestones in order to recognize if a child is experiencing developmental delay due to lead poisoning. Information on important developmental milestones is available from the CDC.

Is Your Child at Risk for Lead Poisoning?

  • Does your child live in, or regularly visit, an old house built before 1960? Was your child’s day-care center, preschool, or baby sitter’s home built before 1960? Does the building have peeling or chipping paint?
  • Does your child live in a house built before 1960 with recent, ongoing, or planned renovation or remodeling?
  • Have any siblings or playmates of your child had lead poisoning?
  • Does your child frequently come in contact with an adult who works with lead?
    Following are examples of activities that involve lead: electronic repair; furniture refinishing; working on oil rigs; pottery and painting; welding and soldering; working at a recycling center; working with rubber or plastics; working with lead Babbitt; car and truck radiator repair and auto body work; construction and painting of buildings and houses; manufacturing or working with cable, wire, and tire weights; target shooting and handling of firearms, bullets, or explosives; and construction and repair of ships, bridges, and water towers.
  • Do you give your child any home remedies or imported candy that might contain lead?
  • Does your child live near a heavily traveled highway or street?
  • Does your child play with keys? They may contain lead.
  • Are there lead fishing sinkers in your home?
  • Have items other than vegetation been burned outside near your home? The ashes left behind often contain lead.
  • Does your child live or regularly play near an airport or airfield?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, please discuss the possibility of lead poisoning with your child’s physician or a nurse at your local health department.

Mississippi State University

Mississippi Department of Health

Information in this publication was adapted from material developed by Mississippi State Department of Health.
This project is funded by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act 2107: Lead Testing in School and Child Care Program Drinking Water Grant.

For more information, please contact Jason R. Barrett at or visit

Publication 3570 (01-24)

By Jason R. Barrett, PhD, Associate Extension Professor, Nelson A. McGough Jr., Research Technician, and Justin Palmer, Extension Associate, Water Resources Research Institute.

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