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Lead Poisoning in Children
May 2010

Children can come into contact with lead in soil, dust accidently brought home from adult workplaces or hobbies, imported candies, traditional sickness remedies, pottery, or toys. However, the most common source of lead is from old paint in homes. Lead paint can be found in any home built before 1978, the year lead in paint was banned. Houses built before 1950 are more likely to have lead paint. While cracked, peeling paint is obviously a concern, even the dust created by opening and shutting windows with frames painted with lead paint may be enough to harm a child.

Lead and Health
Children tend to put their hands in their mouths. As they play, children may accidently swallow dust, chips of paint, or soil containing lead dust from paint or other sources. Lead poisoning from these sources can lead to learning disabilities, problems in behavior, and at very high levels, seizures, coma, and death. Unfortunately, the effects of low level lead poisoning in infants and toddlers may not be seen until the child enters school. This means it is very important to take action to prevent contact with lead dust in and around the home. Health care providers can test a child or pregnant woman’s blood for lead. If the result is higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL) of blood, it is considered “elevated.” Local public health agencies work with families of children with elevated blood lead levels to find the source of lead and prevent further exposure. If the result is higher than 15 ug/dL for a child less than six years old or higher than 10 ug/dL for a pregnant woman, Minnesota law requires that the home where the child or woman lives be checked for sources of lead

Counting Lead Poisoning in Children
Minnesota has a Blood Lead Information System (BLIS). By law, when a laboratory analyzes a sample of blood for lead, the result is given to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Children and pregnant women with elevated blood lead results are referred to local public health staff who help the families take action to lower their blood lead levels. The information from BLIS can also be used to find areas where children are more likely to be exposed to lead in soil and dust around their homes. Trends in blood lead levels can also be tracked through the years to see if lead poisoning prevention efforts are working. Across the United States and in Minnesota, the number of children with elevated blood lead results (greater than 10 ug/dL) is decreasing.

What the Information Shows
In 2007, about one child out of 100 children tested in Minnesota had elevated blood lead results (greater than 10 ug/dL). Three out of 100 children tested in St. Paul had elevated blood lead results. In 2006-2008 in the Central Corridor, about four out of 100 children had elevated blood lead results. (Click on the map for a larger image.)

Printable information sheet, with map: Healthy Communities Count! (PDF:467KB/2 pages)

More information

Lead Poisoning Prevention

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Click on the map below for a larger image

Child Blood Lead Test Results, 2006-2008. Click on the map, then click again for a larger image


Updated Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 03:21PM