Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is a Public Health Services program that seeks to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by caring for lead-poisoned children and identifying and eliminating sources of lead exposure. Services provided include nursing case management and environmental investigations for lead poisoned children as well as education to health care providers, community groups, and families. Our efforts are pursuant to California Health and Safety Code Sections 105275-105310 (Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of 1991).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning is the accumulation of lead in the body. Lead usually enters the body in the form of lead dust that is breathed in or by eating something that has been contaminated with lead. Children under 6 years old absorb lead more easily and are more easily harmed by lead.
Lead poisoning can happen slowly over time as lead builds up in the body or can happen suddenly if someone is exposed to a lot of lead at once. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. The only way to know if someone has lead poisoning is by getting a blood lead test.
There is no known “safe” level of lead to have in the body. Any measurable amount of lead in the body may have negative health effects and can cause lifelong learning and behavior problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently uses a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (5mcg/dL) or higher to identify children who have an elevated blood lead level.
Lead poisoning can be treated but most of the damage caused by lead poisoning is permanent. The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable.
Common Sources of Lead Poisoning
- Lead-based paint on older homes, buildings, furniture, and fixtures built before1978
- Home Remedies also known as Traditional/Folk/Ayurvedic Medicine, candy and spices have been found to contain lead. Some examples include: Surma, Kohl, Alkohl, Azarcon, Greta, Ghasard, Kandu, Lozeena, Pay-loo-ah, Sindoor, and Daw-Tway.
- Handmade or imported pottery and tableware with leaded paint or glaze. Terra cotta pots, highly decorative, imported low cost dishware, and antique tableware have been found to contain lead.
- Take-home exposure. Some jobs such as auto repair, construction, metal work, soldering, battery manufacturing, or working at a shooting range may expose people to lead that they bring home on their clothes, shoes, equipment, or car.
- Soil contaminated from when leaded gasoline was used and from factory pollution, especially in areas that are near busy roadways, freeways, or factories.
- Spices, such as chili, tamarind, and turmeric have been found to contain lead.
- Imported candy or food, especially candies containing chili and/or tamarind as well as chapulines (toasted grasshoppers). Lead can be in the candy, spices, wrapper, or container.
- Imported food in cans that are sealed with lead solder. Food cans with lead solder often have wide seams.
- Metal jewelry and accessories. Lead has been found in inexpensive children’s jewelry sold in vending machines as well as costume jewelry designed for adults.
Lead poisoning is completely preventable. The key is to prevent lead exposure before your family is poisoned. The following are ways to protect your children from lead poisoning.
- Wash children's hands and toys frequently.
- Paint - Cover old paint that is chipped, flaky or peeling with contact paper. Remove fallen paint chips immediately. Prevent children from chewing on or picking at windowsills and other painted areas.
- Dust - Mop and wipe floors, windowsills and window frames weekly with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner.
- Soil - Do not allow children to play in outdoor areas near a busy street, highway, factory or auto shop. Cover soil around your house with grass, plants, rocks or pavement. Click on one of the following links for more information about lead in paint, dust and soil. (English) (Spanish)
- Toys - Use toys that can be easily washed. Avoid using baby bottles with decals.
- Candy - Avoid giving children imported candies made with tamarind or chili powder.
- Pottery - Do not use handmade or imported pottery and highly decorated dishes for cooking and storing food unless you are certain they are lead free. Cast iron and stainless steel pots are safe to use. Special swabs to test for lead can be purchased at some hardware stores. Look at this brochure for information about lead in traditional imported pottery (English/Spanish).
Home remedies - Only give children doctor-approved medicines.
Home Remedies brochure (English/Spanish)
- Nutrition - Give children a healthy diet with foods rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C. A healthy diet helps prevent lead absorption into the body. Click on one of the following links for more information about preventing lead poisoning in your child through nutrition. (English) (Spanish)
- Don't take Lead Home with you! If you work with lead, wash your hands and change your clothes before coming into contact with your loved ones. Click on one of the following links for more information. (English) (Spanish)
Well Fed = Less Lead: The Role of Nutrition in Preventing Lead Poisoning
Feed children a healthy diet with foods rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C (see table below for examples). These nutrients help prevent lead from being absorbed by the body and can also help remove lead from the body. For more information about preventing lead poisoning in your child through nutrition, take a look at these handouts: English | Spanish
Vitamin C Sources
Cheese & yogurt
Lean red meats
Older homes and buildings built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. Disturbing lead-based paint during remodeling and repainting can create dangerous lead dust. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for more information on renovating or painting your home.
Learn More About Lead-Safe Work Practices
- Call the National Lead Hotline at (800) 424-LEAD and request "How to" guidelines on working safely with lead-based paint.
- Get a list of the Department of Health Services Certified Lead Professionals who are trained to do lead-safe work in your home by visiting the State of California's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch website or by calling (800) 597-LEAD.
- For more information on free Lead Safe Work Practices Training, call (858) 492-5015.
- For information or questions on the EPA Renovation Repair and Paint (RRP) rule visit the EPA Region 9 website.
For more information, contact the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (619) 692-8487 or send us an e-mail.