top of page

Lead Poisoning Prevention

Protect Your Family from Lead Poisoning

Lead’s Effects on the Body

Lead is a poisonous metal that our bodies cannot use. Lead poisoning can cause learning, hearing, and behavioral problems, and can harm your child’s brain, kidneys, and other organs.


Lead in the body stops good vitamins such as iron and calcium from working right. Some of these effects may be permanent.

Lead Awareness and Your Child

Children with lead poisoning usually do not look or act sick. The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is by getting a blood test. Ask your doctor or health care provider to test your child at age 1 and again at age 2 for lead poisoning.

Where Does Lead Come From?

There are several ways it is possible to contract lead poisoning. The most common ways for lead to get into a body is by breathing it in, or eating it. Lead can be in:

  • paint

  • dust

  • drinking water

  • contaminated dirt

These are not the only places lead can be found. Toys and furniture with lead-based paint, imported lead-glazed pottery and leaded crystal, some hobby supplies, and cosmetics like kohn and kajal may be other sources of lead.

Screening for Lead

All children 6 months to 6 years old should be tested for lead poisoning. Illinois state law requires all children entering state operated day care, nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten to provide proof of a blood level assessment.

A screening test is done with blood taken from the finger or arm. If too much lead is in the blood, your child may need treatment. To find out how to have your child tested, call your doctor or the Douglas County Health Department at (217) 253-4137.

Women planning to have a baby should be tested for lead. Lead in a mother’s body can cause a baby to be born too small and too early.

Protect Your Child From Lead

  • Wash your children’s hands before they eat.

  • Foods high in iron and calcium – lean meat, eggs, raisins, greens, milk, cheese, fruit and potatoes – help get lead out of a child’s system. Limit foods high in fat and oil – fried foods and snacks like potato chips – that keep lead in a child’s system.

  • Clean up chipping and peeling paint inside and outside your home.

  • Clean up lead dust in window sills and on the floor near windows, doorways and woodwork. Use a damp mop or cloth and a phosphate cleaning product.

  • Wash your child’s toys often. Throw away lead-painted toys.

  • Do not store food in open cans or pottery.

  • If you work with lead, shower and change clothes before coming home. Wash your work clothes separately.

  • Run cold water for a few minutes before using it for cooking and drinking. Do not use water from the hot water tap for cooking, drinking or making formula.

Your Child May Have Lead Poisoning If:

  • He/she lives in or visits a home built before 1978 with peeling or chipping paint or lead water pipes.

  • She/he has been around dust from sanding or remodeling of a home built before 1978.

  • You live near a highway or industry that uses lead.

  • He/she lives with someone who works with lead.

Other sources of lead are foods grown in contaminated soil; foods stored in handmade pottery or open cans; bullets; fishing sinkers; and hobbies that use lead, such as ceramics and stained glass.

If You Think Your Home Has Lead Paint

Removing lead paint is very dangerous. Do not do it yourself. Call your local health department or the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Lead Poisoning Clearinghouse of Information at 217-782-0403 or 1-800-545-2200, TTY (hearing impaired only) 1-800-547-0466, for information on how to remove lead paint safely.

bottom of page