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Indiana State Department of Health

Environmental Public Health Home > Lead & Healthy Homes Program > Health Information > Healthy Homes Healthy Homes

What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning refers to the dangerous health effects associated with a high level of lead in the bloodstream. Lead can enter the body through inhalation, or breathing in, of small lead particles in dust. Lead can also enter the body through ingestion, or swallowing lead particles. This usually happens through hand to mouth transfer, where lead particles on the hands are transferred to the mouth through eating, drinking, or placing fingers into the mouth.

 

Why is lead poisoning dangerous?

There is no nutritional benefit in lead. It can harm your body in a variety of ways. Lead damages your bones, kidneys, reproductive system, and brain. It can cause anemia, high blood pressure, depression, clumsiness, memory problems, headaches, forgetfulness, and many other health problems. Some people with lead poisoning will have no symptoms.

 

Who is at risk for lead poisoning?

  • Children who live in or regularly visit a house or childcare center built before 1978
  • Children whose sibling or playmate has been lead poisoned
  • Adults who work in a facility where lead is used, such as a battery factory or radiator shop, and children who come into regular contact with these adults
  • Adults with hobbies that use lead such as stained glass or fishing, and children who come into regular contact with these adults
  • Children who are immigrants or refugees from a country where lead use in consumer products is not restricted
  • Children who are members of a racial or ethnic minority
  • Children who are enrolled in Medicaid (or Hoosier Healthwise)
  • Children who are treated with traditional or folk remedies such as arzacon or greta
  • Children exposed to traditional cosmetics that may contain lead, such as kohl

 

Simple Steps to Protect Your Family From Lead Poisoning

  • Have your children tested for lead poisoning at least once a year until they are six years old.
  • Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean as possible. Wet mop floors and wipe window ledges and surfaces such as cribs with a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead and warm water.
  • Have children play in sand and grassy areas instead of dirt, which sticks to their fingers and toys.
  • Have children wash their hands after playing outside and before meals, naps, and at bedtime.
  • Do not bring lead dust into your home from the workplace or environment. Wipe your feet before entering your home. Remove work clothes and wash them separately from the rest of your family’s clothing.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes iron, calcium, and foods low in fat. Foods rich in iron include eggs, some nuts, and beans. A healthy diet causes the body to absorb less lead.