by Amy Scholten, MPH
Lead is a toxic metal in the environment. In children, lead poisoning is a blood level of lead that is 20 mcg/dL or more. It can lead to brain damage.
Lead poisoning is caused by eating, drinking, or breathing in tiny pieces of lead. This can happen quickly or over a period of time.
The most common causes are exposure to:
This problem is more common in children under 5 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Children with lead poisoning may not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
The doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A blood test can diagnose lead poisoning. This test may also be done in young children as part of a routine appointment.
Treatment depends on the severity of lead poisoning. It may include:
Sources of lead will need to be removed from the child's environment. Public health officials can help.
The risk of lead poisoning can be lowered by removing sources of lead from a child's environment.
Environmental Protection Agency
National Safety Council
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Hauptman M, Bruccoleri R, et al. An update on childhood lead poisoning.Clin Pediatr Emerg Med. 2017 Sep; 18(3): 181–192.
Lead. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead. Accessed January 11, 2021.
Lead. Environmental Protection Agency website. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/lead. Accessed January 11, 2021.
Lead poisoning in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lead-poisoning-in-children. Accessed January 11, 2021.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/11/2021
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