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Facts on lead poisoning in toddlers

NEW YORK — Children with blood lead levels of 5 – 9 micrograms per deciliter, when tested at their first birthday, were nearly seven times more likely to have blood levels of 10 mcg/dL, when tested at age 2.

New York state requires doctors to test all children with a blood lead test at age 1 and again at age 2.

Parents should know the following about lead testing and preventing their children from being poisoned by lead:

– A small amount of blood is taken from a finger prick or vein and tested for lead. Blood can be drawn at some doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics or labs. County health departments can provide information about where lead testing is offered.

– If lead gets into a child’s body, it can cause a lower IQ, growth problems, kidney damage, behavior problems, anemia or hearing loss.

– The most common cause of lead poisoning is dust from lead-based paint. If floors have dust from old, painted walls or paint chips, a baby could suck on lead dust from their hands or toys, or breathe in lead dust. Some toddlers eat paint chips or soil or chew on lead-painted window sills and stair railings. Lead can also be found in water from old, lead pipes and soldering. Some Asian and Hispanic folk medicines for stomach maladies also contain lead. Lead can also be found in cosmetics that were imported from the Middle East.

Caretakers can take steps to prevent children from being lead poisoned:

– Keep children away from chipped or peeling paint. Fix peeling paint and make home repairs.

– Children and pregnant women should stay away from repairs that may disturb old paint, such as sanding and scraping. Those areas should be cleaned using wet cleaning methods and a high efficiency particulate air vacuum, rather than dry sweeping.

– Wash children’s hands and faces after play, before meals and before bed.

– Wash toys, stuffed animals, pacifiers and bottles with soap and water.

– Frequently mop floors and use damp paper towels to clean window wells and sills.

–Lead is in some children’s jewelry, toys, keys and old furniture. Find out about product recalls and other sources of lead. Sign up for those alerts at

– Some jobs and hobbies involve contact with lead. These include painting, plumbing, construction, car repair or working with firearms, stained glass or pottery. To reduce lead dust, change work clothes before going home, take shoes off at the door, wash work or hobby clothes separately from others and wash the face, hands and uncovered skin before going home.

– Let tap water run for 1 minute before using it, if it has not been run for several hours. Both town and well water can contain lead from old plumbing.

– Use only cold tap water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Boiling water does not eliminate lead.

– Serve foods that contain calcium, iron and vitamin C. These foods help keep lead from being stored in the body.

For more information on how to prevent lead poisoning, learning about lead-related product recalls or having a child tested for lead, visit the New York State Department of Health website at

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