Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Information for Parents

Anyone can get lead poisoned. However, lead is most dangerous to children younger than six years old. Young children put their hands, toys and other things in their mouths. Any of these objects could have lead dust on them.

Lead poisoned children are likely to suffer life-long consequences. Even a small amount of lead can have a negative effect on a child's development and can cause serious health problems, including learning disabilities, loss of IQ, and reduced attention span. Fortunately, parents can take actions to protect children from lead poisoning.

What You Should Do

Prevent lead poisoning

  • Protect your children from lead dust and lead paint in and around your home. Cover peeling or flaking paint with contact paper or duct tape and wash windows, doorways, floors, and dusty areas often with a wet mop or cloth. (more)
  • Give your children foods that are high in iron, vitamin C, and calcium.
  • Run cold water from the faucet for at least one minute or until the temperature drops before you drink it or cook with it. Never use hot water from the faucet for drinking, cooking, or making baby formula.
  • Keep children from playing in soil near older buildings that may be contaminated by lead paint chips or dust.
  • If you work in house painting or renovating, construction, soldering, welding, or autobody work, keep your work clothes away from the rest of the family's laundry and wash your clothes separately. (more)
  • Ask your doctor about getting a lead test for your child at your next visit.

Have your child tested

The only way to know if your child is lead poisoned is to have your child tested. Every child between nine and 36 months of age should be tested for lead poisoning. Between the ages of three and six years, lead tests should continue if the child is exposed to lead by living in a home built before 1978 (when lead paint was banned) or by another exposure, or if the child has had high blood lead level test results. Testing is generally done annually, though a pediatrician may recommend more frequent testing if results are not normal. Talk to your child's doctor for more information.

Cost

Lead screening tests for children younger than six years old are free. Rhode Island insurance companies and Medicaid fully cover the expense of the test. Lead screening for children without insurance is offered free of charge at St. Joseph Hospital Health Center, 21 Peace Street, Providence, RI 02907, 401-456-4310.

Understand your child's lead test results

The amount of lead in your child's blood tells you if your child has been exposed to lead and if your child is lead poisoned. Even a small amount of lead can affect a child’s health and learning.

Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter of blood, expressed as mcg/dL or µg/dL. Ask your child's doctor for more information about blood lead levels.

In Rhode Island, a “significantly lead poisoned” child younger than six years old who has been screened for lead poisoning has either one venous blood lead level greater than or equal to 20 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or two venous blood lead levels greater than or equal to 15 mcg/dL, between 90 and 365 days apart.

Services for Lead Poisoned Children

If your child is “significantly lead poisoned,” he or she will need and be offered medical care, case management, and a home inspection.

Medical care

Medical treatment of lead poisoning is primarily the responsibility of the child's doctor. If your child is lead poisoned, the doctor will inform you about the available help and treatment options. The doctor can continue to treat the child or refer you to St. Joseph Hospital Lead Clinic.

Case management

All lead poisoned children are referred for non-medical case management and education. This service ensures that families receive the care they need in a coordinated manner. Depending on where you live in Rhode Island, you may be served by one of the following organizations:

Home inspection

A licensed lead inspector will contact you to offer an inspection of your home. The purpose of the inspection is to identify lead hazards, which primarily come from lead based paint in housing built before 1978. Accept this inspection. Once it is completed, you and the property owner will be informed of the location of the damage and how to repair it. It is the property owner's responsibility to correct the hazards.