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Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing lead. Lead is poison when it gets into the body.
Lead can stay in the body for a long time. Young children absorb lead more easily than adults. The harm done by lead may never go away. Lead in the body can:
Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. A lead test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning. Ask your healthcare provider to test your child for lead.
Some children may have:
Most of the lead poisoning in Massachusetts comes from lead paint dust in older homes. Many homes built before 1978 have lead paint on the inside and outside of the building.
When old paint peels and cracks, it creates lead paint chips and lead dust. Lead dust also comes from opening and closing old windows.
Home repairs and renovations also create lead dust.
Lead dust lands on the floor. Lead gets into a child's body when he puts his hands and toys in his mouth. Children can also breathe in lead dust. Children between the ages of 9 months and 6 years are most at risk.
Thanks to scientific research we know a lot more about lead than we used to. However, there are still many myths about lead poisoning. Below are the most common myths that prevent children from being properly protected from lead.
Fact - Ingesting dust from lead paint is the most common way of getting lead poisoning. Lead dust covers surfaces and objects that children touch and clings to their hands and toys. Children ingest lead dust when they put their hands or toys in their mouths, which is normal behavior for young children.
Eating chips or chewing on painted surfaces can also poison children.
Fact - Poor maintenance and cleaning habits do increase the risk of childhood lead poisoning. But, good maintenance and cleaning habits alone will not fully protect a child. Lead dust cannot be fully removed by normal household cleaning.
Children are most often poisoned by lead dust created over time through normal wear and tear and repairs or renovations. Even if cleaned, lead dust continues to be generated by activities such as opening and closing windows.
Fact - Since Massachusetts did not routinely test for lead poisoning until 1990, many people may have been affected.
Many people who have grown up in homes with lead paint may have experienced subtle damage to the brain and nervous system. There are no symptoms of moderate lead poisoning, so no one would know they were in danger.
A significant number of these people may be experiencing undiagnosed lead poisoning. Learning, behavior, and attention problems are all effects of lead poisoning.
Lead paint becomes more dangerous as it ages. Old paint is more likely to chip, peel, chalk and create lead dust and debris. It poses more health hazards. As a result, the lead paint in old buildings is more dangerous, even if it has been painted over.