Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead poisoning can affect anyone but is most harmful to children under age 6. Lead poisoning can affect almost every system in the body. Because lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death.

Lead Poisoning Services

The CDC recommends that all children be tested at least twice before age 5. The first test is usually performed around age 1 with second test at age 2. The Health Department provides simple lead screening by a finger stick for children ages 1 - 5 years through the WIC program (Women, Infant, and Child). Lead testing for children that are not in the program is also provided upon request.

The health department also provides:
  • Case management services for children with elevated blood lead levels (education, referral for medical and financial assistance)
  • Education on sources of lead, prevention of lead poisoning, and safe renovation of housing to prevent lead exposure
  • Environmental inspections of housing of children with elevated blood lead levels
Call 715-634-4806 for more information.

How are Children Exposed?

The major source of lead exposure among children is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. However, approximately 24 million housing units in the United States still have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children.

Who is at Risk?

All children under the age of 6 years old have the biggest risk because they grow, develop, and absorb nutrients and other substances quickly, and they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths. Adults are still at risk of lead poisoning which is most likely to be caused by unintentional frequent/occasional ingestion. Ingestion may be due to the presence of lead in older drinking water systems, piping, or lead-containing soldering material in pipes, cans, and eating utensils. Consuming meat from animals killed by lead bullets can also be a source of exposure to harmful lead. Lead exposure may also be from work environments in mining or factory work or from jewelry containing lead.

Can Lead Poisoning Be Prevented?

It is important to not only look at the age of the house where you live but also where your child may spend a large amount of time (grandparent's or daycare). In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead in it unless tests show otherwise. The following measures can be taken:
  • Close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls. You can also apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or to block children's access to other sources of lead.
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or "chewable" surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
  • Pregnant women and young children should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation or the clean up after work is completed.
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil; if possible, provide them with sandboxes. If possible, parents should plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips. If using a sandbox, parents should also cover the box when not in use to prevent cats from using it as a litter box. This will also help protect children from exposure to animal waste.
  • Regularly wash children's hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources.
  • Remove all toys or other objects that have been recalled for containing lead from your home. Check our Lead Poisoning Links for a list of items that have been recalled.