Childhood Lead Poisoning

Learn about childhood lead poisoning

What is lead poisoning?

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 does not go away. Lead in the body can:

  • Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
  • Slow down growth and development
  • Make it hard to learn
  • Damage hearing and speech
  • Cause behavior problems

How will I know if my child has lead poisoning?

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:

  • Upset stomach
  • Trouble eating or sleeping
  • Headache
  • Trouble paying attention

 How do children get lead poisoning?

Most of the lead poisoning in Massachusetts comes from lead paint and 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 at risk, but toddlers who are teething and learning and crawl are most at risk.


Additional information can be found on the MA DPH websites:

Lead and Your Child's Health |

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program |

Learn about childhood lead poisoning |

Learn about lead testing in Massachusetts and what a result means for your child | 

Lead Safe Homes Search (    Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program’s database for lead inspected homes. Lead in residential paint was banned in 1978, and due to the large quantity of pre-1978 homes in Massachusetts, you will find many properties in this database. You can look up the inspection history of a property by entering a street name or street name and number. This database will indicate whether a property has ever been inspected for lead, has had any lead hazards or has a letter of compliance.