Childhood Lead Poisoning and Prevention

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. There is no safe blood lead level in children. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect learning, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The most important step that parents and caregivers, healthcare providers, and public health professionals can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.

What is the role of the Saratoga County Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program?
The Saratoga County Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is responsible for the case management of lead poisoned children in Saratoga County. The program addresses the potential for lead exposure, as well as preventing lead poisoned children from further exposure. The program conducts investigations and provides information to the parents or guardians of children under age 18 that have tested positive for an elevated blood lead level. New York State Guidelines require that all children be screened for lead at ages 1 and 2 years old and every year up to age 6 years old if there are certain risk factors like living in a house that was built before 1978.

  1. Care Coordination for children with elevated blood lead levels including:
  • Medical case management
  • Evaluation of all lead test results completed in Saratoga County
  • Education for parents/guardians of children with elevated blood lead levels
  • Home visits and referrals based on blood lead levels
  • Provide information on current CDC and New York State guidance for medical evaluation and follow up
  1. Environmental Assessment
  • Check properties where a child with an elevated blood lead level lives and/or frequently visits
  • Notify parents/guardians and property owners of lead hazards found at the property
  • Provide information and oversight of lead abatement plans
  • Follow-up visits to ensure compliance and act as an enforcement agent on non-compliance
  1. Provide leadership and coordination of lead activities in the community and work with the following  organizations to promote the safety of children regarding exposure to lead:
  1. Offer lead testing for children under age 6 years old who require a test but cannot obtain one due to lack of health insurance coverage.
  1. Provide information about lead exposure, ways to reduce exposure, medical treatment, and legislation.

Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal that can cause long term effects on children.  Certain products such as paints used in older houses before 1978, lead solder used in plumbing, and leaded gasoline were used before their harmful health effects were recognized.  Although laws now prevent lead from being used in many products, there can still be lead hazards in and around many homes.

Children 6 years old and under are most at risk because their bodies are still developing.  Lead can also harm babies before they are born.  A young child’s exposure to lead can cause learning and behavioral problems and possibly damage their brain, kidneys, and other organs.

The main way most young children are exposed to harmful levels of lead is through contact with lead contaminated paint and dust in older homes.  It enters a child’s body most often by ingestion, absorption, or inhalation.

Other sources of lead:

  • Soil
  • Imported candies or foods
  • The workplace and hobbies
  • Imported food in cans
  • Lead-glazed ceramics, china, leaded crystal glassware
  • Metal Jewelry
  • Mini-blinds
  • Folk medicines, ayurvedics and cosmetics
  • Other sources of lead such as car batteries, radiators, some inks
  • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about a blood lead screening test
  • Ask your doctor about having a blood lead screening test for your child
  • Be aware of ways you and your child can be exposed to lead, and prevent exposure
  • If you live in a home built before 1978, consider having your home tested for lead
  • Wash away lead dust
  • Wash children’s hands or toys often – even if they don’t look dirty – to remove lead dust
  • Mop floors often and use damp cloths to clean windowsills

To help block the storage of lead in your child’s body, serve your family meals that are low in fat and high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C such as: milk, yogurt, cheese, salmon, spinach, collard greens, chicken, lean red meat, eggs, lentils, raisins, tuna fish, beans, broccoli, spinach, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, peppers, and tomatoes.

Lead particles can also cross the placental barrier in pregnant women and can be passed from mother to infant through breast milk.  Speak to your OB-GYN if you’ve had a lead exposure to be tested for lead poisoning.

If you believe your child to be poisoned, reach out to your child’s health practitioner to talk about the possibility of testing. Children should be tested at the ages of one and two years old. Only a blood lead level test can give an accurate amount of lead in a child’s body. Children under the age of six years old are especially at risk to lead poisoning. An elevated blood lead level is currently 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher. If your child is found to be poisoned, a nurse from our program will reach out after receiving the results from your child’s practitioner, and a lead assessment will be performed.
If you would like to have your home’s well water tested for lead, use a certified water testing company which can be determined through an online search.  Lead is tested in municipal water; reports can be obtained by going to the website for your local municipality or contacting them by phone.  Further information about lead in in drinking water can be found by going to the following websites: CDC and NYSDOH.

Regulations set by New York State have required that all school districts test their potable water sources by October 31, 2016.  These tests were completed in Saratoga County; if levels were found to be elevated, repeat testing was required.  All water testing results should be available on each school district’s website; if you have further questions, please contact the Saratoga County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program Coordinator at 518-584-7460 ext. 8362.

For more information, contact the Saratoga County Department of Health at (518) 584-7460, Email us, or visit the NYS Department of Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention page.

EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule
The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right
EPA Certified Renovation Firms
CDC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

For possible grant funding for homeowners and landlords with Documented Lead Based Paint Hazards go to the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal