What is it?
First Aid

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring, poisonous metal. Lead was an ingredient in paint until 1978 and may still be included in small amounts in some commercial products, such as pottery, jewelry and toys.

Lead can be harmful if you breathe it in or swallow it. It is most harmful to young children and unborn babies.

Lead dust

When lead paint cracks and peels, it makes lead chips and lead dust. Lead dust contains tiny bits of lead that you cannot see.

If you have lead dust in your home, children may get it on their hands or toys. They can swallow the lead dust when they put their hands or toys in their mouths.

Adults can breathe in lead dust if they work with old paint or other things with lead. Removing old paint from homes is a common way that adults breathe in lead.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

People who have lead poisoning might not look or feel sick. You may need a lead test from your doctor to find out.

Lead can harm the brain and slow down a child’s growth. Children with lead poisoning may:

  • Be cranky
  • Have stomach aches
  • Not eat well
  • Throw up

They may also have trouble:

  • Hearing
  • Learning
  • Paying attention

Adults with lead poisoning may:

  • Be moody
  • Feel tired or weak
  • Have aches in their muscles, bones or stomach

They may also have trouble:

  • Adding
  • Problem-solving
  • Remembering
  • Sleeping

What can I do about lead poisoning?

If someone has swallowed something with lead in it, or breathed in a lot of lead, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

How can I prevent lead poisoning?

If your home was built before 1978, it may have lead paint. Have your home tested for lead by calling your state lead program:

Maine: 1-866-292-3474
New Hampshire: 1-800-897-LEAD (5323)
Vermont 1-800-439-8550

If your home contains lead paint:

  • Have a doctor test your children for lead.
  • Keep children away from lead paint.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wash children’s toys often.
  • Use a wet paper towel instead of a vacuum or broom when cleaning under windows and doors.
  • If you rent, report chipping or peeling paint to your landlord.
  • If you work with lead, get trained on how to do it safely. Contact you state lead program at the number above.

Last Updated: Saturday May 14th 2016