Lead poisoning is a serious health issue for many young children and their families. Lead has been shown to be particularly harmful to children between the ages of nine months and six years.
If a mother is exposed to lead during her pregnancy, it can cause problems for the fetus before the child is born. Fetuses exposed to lead before birth may be born early or underweight.
Exposure to lead can increase a child’s risk for:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system.
- Slowed growth and development.
- Learning and behavior problems.
- Hearing and speech problems.
It’s not easy to tell if a child has been lead-poisoned. The symptoms of lead poisoning can sometimes been seen in otherwise healthy children, including:
- Loss of appetite.
- Loss of energy.
- Stomach aches.
Some children may have no signs or symptoms at all.
The only way to know for sure if a child has been poisoned is to get the child tested for lead.
Parents and caregivers of young children (ages one to six) should have their children tested for lead.
Talk to your child’s doctor about getting a blood lead test. Pediatricians recommend that children get a blood lead test at around the age of one and again around the age of two. Children who live in older housing or have other risk factors should be screened once a year until the age of six.
Children can be tested at their doctor’s office or a laboratory. Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and private insurance cover blood lead testing for children.
Children can also be tested for free at a City health center.
What happens if my child is lead-poisoned or otherwise harmed by an unhealthy home?
If your child’s blood lead level is at or above 3.5 ug/dL (micrograms per deciliter), the level will be reported to the Department of Public Health. A staff member from our Lead and Healthy Homes Program will contact you to help connect you to services and resources.
For families of children with asthma or those dealing with other health and safety problems in the home, the Lead and Healthy Homes Program may be able to help with information, home visits, and other resources. Call (215) 685-2788 to get more information.
Learn more about how to reduce the risk of lead poisoning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.