Courtesy of the Niagara County Department of Health Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

Lead is still around, and exposure to even small amounts of lead can have a toxic health effect. As a neurotoxin, lead can affect our children’s ability to learn and develop normally.

Although lead occurs naturally in our environment, the most common source of exposure is through lead dust in older homes. This is because lead was used in residential paint until 1978, when it was finally banned. If you live in an older home where, it is likely that lead paint was used. Lead dust is released from worn paint and from friction areas like windows and doors that are rubbed when opening and closing. All it takes is a teaspoon’s worth of lead dust scattered around a home to poison your child.

Young children through age five are most vulnerable to lead poisoning due to their small size, faster metabolism, and more active brain development. Children also absorb four to five times more of the lead they are exposed to than to adults. Children exposed to lead may not look or act sick, even though damage to their developing brains is occurring. Even prolonged exposure to lower lead levels can result in lifelong learning disabilities, hearing loss, behavior problems, and other health issues.

Since it is common for children to be asymptomatic to lead exposure, the best way to determine if they have been exposed is to get them tested. New York State Public Health Law mandates that health care providers test children for lead when they are one year old, and again when they reach age two. Too often families are unaware of safe methods for repairing, renovating, or painting their older homes, and unknowingly expose their children to lead. Visit to learn about safe renovation methods. Also, know that it is not just where you live, but also where you visit.

To further prevent harm to your child due to lead exposure:

  • Practice good handwashing prior to eating or sleeping. Using soap, water, and friction of rubbing hands together removes invisible lead dust, as hand sanitizer is not effective in removing lead.
  • Have your children sit in one clean place when eating (not on the floor) to avoid getting lead dust on their food.
  • Damp mop and damp dust to help control dust.
  • Children who are anemic absorb more lead dust, so encourage a healthy diet with increased iron and vitamin C. Iron protects against the harmful effects of lead, and Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.
  • Lead can be in the soil, especially closer to the house from years of rain runoff. Remove shoes and leave them at the door to avoid tracking lead into the house.

Call your County Department of Health with questions or concerns. In Niagara County, call 716-278-8588.