Lead Poisoning Prevention
Common Sources

On this page:
Lead-Based Paint
Lead Dust
Soil
Food
Water
Other

Lead-Based Paint

Eating cracking, chipping and peeling lead-based paint is a common lead source for young children. Lead paint was used on the inside and outside of homes.

  • Be aware that lead-based paint may have been used on cribs, highchairs, windows, woodwork, walls, doors, railings and ceilings.
  • Don't let your child eat or chew on anything you think may have paint on it. Look for teeth marks on the woodwork in your home.
  • Be sure to wet wash the windows often. Loose paint and dust can build up inside and under the window area.
  • Do not use your household vacuum to clean up paint chips or leaded dust. The filter in your household vacuum cleaner is not designed to pick up and hold small pieces of lead. Using a regular vacuum cleaner will spread lead dust into the air.
  • Painting over chipping or peeling lead-based paint does not make it safe!
  • Family members can also become lead poisoned while the lead-based paint is being removed from the home. Call the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-4620 or 800-798-9050 to learn more about safely removing sources of lead from an older home.

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Lead Dust

Household dust can contain small pieces of lead from paint chips or tracked in soil. Your house can look clean and still have lead in it. A child can breathe in or eat this dust.

  • Keep your home as dust-free as possible. Wet wash window wells, sills and floors with a cleaning solution made up of trisodium phosphate (TSP) powder or automatic dishwashing detergent with phosphate. You can buy TSP at a hardware store. Make the cleaning solution by mixing one tablespoon of dry TSP powder, or one tablespoon of automatic dishwashing detergent with phosphate, with one gallon of water. If you cannot find TSP or automatic dishwashing detergent that contains phosphate, use a household detergent. Mix the household detergent according to the directions on the container. Wear waterproof, chemical resistant rubber gloves while doing this wet washing. After you wash the area with the cleaning solution, rinse the area with clean water. Be sure to use two separate buckets--one bucket for the cleaning solution, and one bucket for the clean rinse water. Use separate sets of disposable rags or paper towels--one set for the washing step and one for the rinse step.
  • Wash your child's hands with soap and water before eating, naps and bedtime.
  • Wash bottles, teething rings and toys with soap and water.
  • Adults working in jobs where lead is used should shower, and change clothes and shoes before coming home. This includes painters, remodelers, or workers in smelters, battery plants, radiator or auto body shops.
  • Clothes worn at work should not be washed with other clothes. Clean washable work clothing separately from other clothing. Run the rinse cycle once before using the washer again.
  • Keep windows closed on windy days so dust does not get into the house.

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Soil

Sometimes lead is in the soil next to buildings with chipped paint or homes that have been remodeled. Lead can also be in the soil after a building has been torn down. Lead can be found in the soil near heavy traffic areas and companies that use lead. None of these places are safe play areas for a child.

  • Don't let your child eat outside on the ground, eat dirt, or play next to the house or the street.
  • Keep washable rugs at all of the entrances to your home. Wash these rugs separately from other items. Run the rinse cycle once before using the washer again.
  • Take your shoes off at the door so soil and dust are not tracked into the house.

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Food

Plants usually do not absorb lead unless there is a large amount of lead in the soil.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating to clean off any lead dust that may have settled on the food.
  • Do not store juices or food in open cans. Store food in glass, stainless steel or sturdy plastic.
  • Remove the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables.
  • Plant gardens away from the house, garage, fence or other structures covered with old chipping paint.

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Water

Lead levels in your water are likely to be highest if your home or water system has lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder.

  • Plumbing put in before 1930 may contain lead pipes. Newer homes should not have water pipes joined with lead-based solder. Minnesota banned the use of water pipes joined with lead-based solder in June of 1985. New brass faucets may also contain lead.
  • The only way you can tell if your water has lead in it is to have the water tested by a certified lab. Call your local health department or the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-4620 or 800-798-9050 for the name of an approved lab in your area.

If you think you may have lead in your water:

  • Do not cook, drink or make baby formula with water from the hot water faucet. Hot water dissolves more lead than cold water.
  • Always use cold water for cooking or drinking. Let the cold water run for a couple of minutes, or until there is a temperature change, each time the water has been sitting in the pipes for six or more hours.
  • If you need hot water, pour it from the cold water faucet and then heat it on the stove.

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Other

There are many other sources of lead including children's toys and jewelry, herbal medicines, and imported candies, as well as some items frequently used in occupations and hobbies such as solder, bullets, and fishing sinkers made with lead. This list is not all-inclusive, if something is not on this list, it does not mean that it cannot be a source of lead.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a Lead Recalls Web page that lists recalls of lead-contaminated products by category (toys, crafts, clothing, etc.). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also has a recall notification list that you can subscribe to and receive notification of all recalled items. See:

Lead has more recently been found in some children's toys, jewelry and charms. When children swallow lead from painted surfaces or items containing lead, they can become poisoned. If there is any doubt about whether or not an item contains lead, it would be safer to dispose of that item – “When in doubt, throw it out.”  For additional information, see Toys and Lead fact sheet.

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Updated Wednesday, 30-Oct-2013 15:15:29 CDT