Nutrition and Lead Poisoning

Nutrition is only a temporary way of protecting young children from lead poisoning. The best way to prevent lead poisoning is to have the child's home inspected and deleaded.

Foods for Your Children

Give your children foods high in calcium and iron and low in fat to help prevent lead poisoning.

Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous systems of young children. Even low levels of lead in a child's body can cause learning and behavioral problems. Very high levels can cause retardation, convulsions, and coma.

How Children Become Lead Poisoned

Children are most often poisoned by lead dust and lead paint in older homes. Lead dust can come from repairing painted areas, opening and closing painted windows, and through normal wear and tear on the home. Lead dust settles to the floor and gets on children's hands and toys. It gets into their bodies when they put their hands and toys in their mouths.

Make Your Home Lead Safe

The Massachusetts Lead Law requires the removal or covering, or interim control, of lead hazards in homes built before 1978 where a child under the age of six lives. Have your home tested for lead by a licensed lead paint inspector. Have lead hazards corrected using properly trained and licensed people.

Calcium

Foods high in calcium help keep lead from being absorbed by the body. Calcium helps make teeth and bones strong.

Examples:

  • milk, yogurt, tofu, cheese - cheddar, American, ricotta
  • foods made with milk - pudding, macaroni & cheese, pizza, cream soup
  • green leafy vegetables - collards, spinach, kale, mustard greens, broccolli

Iron

Foods high in iron help keep lead from being absorbed by the body.

Examples:

  • lean meats - beef, chicken, pork, goat
  • fish - sardines, tuna
  • cereals - Cream of Wheat, cereal with added iron, Infant cereal with added iron
  • beans - kidney, black
  • peanut butter
  • dried fruits - raisins, dates, prunes

Vitamin C

Iron works better when it is eaten with foods high in vitamin C.

Examples:

  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • mangos
  • green peppers
  • tomatoes
  • juices - orange, grapefruit, tomato

Tips

  • Have your children tested for lead.
  • Wash your children's hands often (always before eating and sleeping)
  • Wash your children's toys often.
  • Use contact paper or tape to cover loose paint until the home is deleaded.
  • Wash dusty areas with any household cleaner. Use a spray bottle for the cleaner and paper towels to scrub the area. (The harder you scrub, the better.)
  • Feed children healthy snacks like:
    • fresh fruits and vegetables
    • whole grain crackers
    • cheese slices
    • yogurt
  • Feed your children:
    • 4-6 small meals during the day (they absorb less lead on a full stomach)
    • foods high in iron, calcium and vitamin C
    • foods low in fat
  • Keep children from walking around with food (it could be put down in areas with lead dust).
  • Run drinking water until it is cold.
  • Use cold water for cooking and making baby formula.
  • Don't add butter or oil when cooking.
  • Bake, broil, or boil foods instead of frying.
  • Buy lean meats and trim off the fat.
  • Avoid potato chips, french fries, pastries, and donuts.

Remember: the only way to permanently lower the risk of your child getting lead poisoned is to have your home deleaded if it contains lead paint.


This information is provided by the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health.