W hat is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing lead. Lead is especially dangerous for young children. It can cause permanent damage to the brain, kidneys and nervous system. Even low levels can slow a child's development and cause learning and behavior problems.

How do children become Lead Poisoned?

Children are most frequently lead poisoned by household lead paint dust. Lead dust is created by chipping or peeling paint, opening and closing lead painted windows, or repairs or renovations to lead painted surfaces. This lead dust rests on surfaces which children touch and then clings to their hands and toys. Children ingest this lead dust when they put their hands or toys into their mouths. Children are also lead poisoned by mouthing lead painted surfaces and eating lead paint chips. In rare instances, children are lead poisoned by lead contaminated water and soil.

How do I know if my child is Lead Poisoned?

A blood test is the only sure way to detect lead poisoning. There are often no symptoms.

Where can I have my child tested for Lead Poisoning?

Your doctor, health care provider, local health clinic, health department or lead poisoning prevention program can test your child's blood for lead. The Massachusetts Lead Law requires that all children be tested for lead between the ages and of 9 and 12 months, and again at ages 2 and 3.

Additionally, all children should be screened at age 4 if they live in a high risk community in Massachusetts. Call CLPPP at 800-532-9571 for a list of high-risk communities or visit "Childhood Lead Poisoning Screening and Incidence Statistics by Community".

What is the Lead Law?

The Lead Law requires the deleading or interim control (see question six) of lead hazards existing in homes built before 1978 where children under six live. Owners are responsible for complying with the Lead Law and paying the costs to delead. This includes owners of rental property as well as owners living in their own single-family or multi-family home.

How does an owner comply with the Lead Law?

There are two ways to comply:

  • Have all lead hazards corrected. You must first hire a licensed lead inspector who will test your home for lead and record all lead hazards.

OR

  • Have only urgent lead hazards corrected, while controlling remaining hazards. This temporary method is called Interim Control. You must first hire a licensed risk assessor who will show you what work must be done for Interim Control. A home may be under control for up to two years.

What does Deleading mean and which surfaces must be Deleaded?

Deleading means to remove or cover lead violations. Not all lead paint must be deleaded. For instance, an entire wall does not have to be deleaded, but all the paint must be intact. Only the following surfaces must be deleaded, even if intact:

  • Surfaces below five feet that can be "mouthed" by a child. These could include but are not limited to, wall corners, doors, stairs, railings, windows, baseboards, and chair rails.
  • Parts of windows (with sills below five feet) that move or touch moving parts.

Who can Delead?

A licensed deleader must perform any high-risk deleading.  An owner or agent (someone working for the owner who is not a licensed deleader) may perform some specific low-risk deleading tasks.  Prior to starting the work, the owner or agent must review training materials, take an at-home test and return it to the Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP).  To receive training materials and the test, call CLPPP at (800) 532-9571.  An owner or agent may also perform some specific moderate-risk deleading tasks.  Moderate-risk is removal and replacement of whole building components.  Prior to starting the work for moderate-risk deleading, the owner/agent must first take a class in how to do this work and the clean-up safely and properly.  A lead-safe renovator may also do moderate-risk deleading.  To find a moderate-risk class nearest you, or for a referral to a lead-safe renovator, call CLPPP at (800) 532-9571.

A certified lead-safe renovator can only perform moderate risk deleading if he/she has take the additional Moderate Risk Deleading training (4-hour add-on) and is employed by a licensed Lead-Safe Renovation Contractor.  DLS issues the Moderate Risk Deleading trained supervisors a DLS authorization number which allows them to perform Moderate Risk Deleading projects.  

A Lead-Safe Renovator certification does not automatically qualify them to do moderate risk deleading.

How can I have my home inspected for Lead?

Property owners can check the Yellow Pages phone book under "lead" or call the Massachusetts Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (800) 532-9571 to get a list of licensed lead inspectors. Owners can also get a list of licensed risk assessors who will test their property for lead and identify the urgent lead hazards that must be corrected for Interim Control. Tenants with children under age six can call their local Lead Poisoning Prevention Program or Board of Health and ask for a free lead inspection or determination. Call (800) 532-9571 if this service is not available in your community.

Is a property owner liable for a Lead Poisoned Child?

If a child is lead poisoned by lead hazards where the child lives and the owner has not complied with the Lead Law, the owner is legally responsible. An owner cannot avoid liability by asking tenants to sign an agreement that they accept the presence of lead paint. Nor can an owner refuse to rent to families with children under six years of age in order to avoid Lead Law responsibilities. This is discrimination, and it is illegal under the Lead Law and federal and state fair housing laws. Complying with the Lead Law is the best protection an owner has from liability and a child has from lead poisoning.


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