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Childhood Lead Poisoning




The adverse health effects of childhood lead poisoning are well documented and can range from death and seizures at very high blood lead levels (BLLs) to cognitive impairment at very low BLLs. There is no safe blood lead level for young children. The sources of lead poisoning are also well established.

The most common source of lead exposure for young children is from lead paint. Lead paint is most commonly found in homes built before 1950. Residential lead paint was banned in 1978, but paint companies began reducing the amount of lead added to residential paint before the ban. Because deteriorating and remodeled residential properties that contain lead paint chips and dust are the most common source, they are the focus of primary prevention strategies to protect young children.

Children with elevated lead levels do not have any specific symptoms that are unique to lead poisoning. The CDC, therefore, recommends a blood lead test for young children who are at risk for lead poisoning. In Oregon, testing is recommended for children who are more likely to be exposed to lead or that show symptoms of potential lead poisoning, such as developmental abnormalities. State and local childhood lead poisoning prevention programs screen infants and children for elevated BLLs and educate the public and health care providers about lead poisoning.