Lead is a metal found in nature. It can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Lead is a poison when it gets into the body, and it can stay in the body for a long time. Babies and young children absorb lead more easily than adults, so it is especially bad for their health.
Lead poisoning is when lead builds up in the body, usually over months or years. It can:
- Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
- Slow down growth and development
- Make it harder for the child to learn
- Damage hearing and speech
- Cause behavior problems
The harm done by lead may never go away, so it is important to get your child tested and treated.
Most lead poisoning comes from lead paint, which is commonly found in both the inside and outside of homes built before 1978. Dust from lead paint comes from:
- old paint peeling and cracking
- opening and closing old windows
- home repairs and renovations
Children can breathe in lead dust or can be exposed to lead when putting their hands or toys into their mouths. Children can also get lead poisoning from the water they drink. Corrosion of pipes, service lines, solder, and fixtures made of lead can cause lead to leach into water. Some toys, toy jewelry, and home remedies may also contain lead, though this is less common today than in the past.
To find out whether your house has lead paint, call the Boston Public Health Commission's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (617-534-5965) to request an inspection. The inspector will be able to tell you whether your home's paint contains lead.
Another way children get lead poisoning is from drinking tap water that has lead in it. To find out if your home's tap water contains lead, get your water tested by a lab that is MassDEP certified. Visit the MassDEP Certified Lab webpage for a list of labs and helpful links. You can also find out if your home's service line is made from lead by checking the Boston Water and Sewer Commission's (BWSC) database or by calling 617-989-7888.
To learn more about lead poisoning, request a lead inspection, or receive other services (case management, home visits, connection to services), call the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 617-534-5965.