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Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning is harmful, especially to the growth and development of young children. A child with lead poisoning may have trouble learning, paying attention and behaving.

Most children with lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Ask your child's doctor about testing for lead. The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is for your child to get a blood test for lead. All at-risk children under six years old should have a blood test.

Resources for Staying Lead-Safe During COVID-19

Many potential sources of lead can be found in or around the home, such as lead-based paint, dust, and soil. During the COVID-19 outbreak, Californians are spending more time at home, potentially leading to greater exposure to lead. For more information visit Resources for Staying Lead-Safe During COVID-19.

What Causes Lead Poisoning?

Lead can get into the body from a variety of sources. For example, tiny particles of lead from old lead-based paint or contaminated dirt from outside become part of house dust. The dust gets on a child's hands and into their mouth from normal hand-to-mouth behavior.

Lead hurts many parts of the body, but especially the growing brain and nervous system of the young child. It only takes a small amount of lead to poison a child..

Where Is Lead Found?

The most common place where lead is found is in the paint on older buildings. The allowable amount of lead in house paint was reduced in 1978. The older the home the more likely that it will contain high levels of lead.

Remodeling or repairing a home painted with lead-based paint can release dangerous amounts of lead. Hire a contractor certified by the State of California to do lead-safe work. If you must do the work yourself, get information about how to do the work safely.

Other sources of lead found in Contra Costa County

Lead-contaminated soil

Dirt can have harmful levels of lead. The lead may still remain after years of settling out of the air due to industrial emissions and former use of leaded gasoline.

Traditional remedies and imported eye powders

Some traditional cultural products have large amounts of lead. These include home remedies such as azarcon and greta used to treat illness and eye powders such as surma and kohl used for eye health and beauty. Children treated with these products can get very high blood lead levels.

Azarcon and Greta

Surma and Kohl
Imported spices and foods

Imported turmeric and other spices such as chili powder and khemeli suneli may contain lead. Chapulines, a popular snack from Mexico made of dried seasoned grasshoppers, have been the source of lead poisoning for some local children. Candies purchased outside of the U.S. may contain lead.

Imported and older dishware and clay pots

Some dishware and clay cookware contain high levels of lead in the glaze or decoration. Clay bean pots and dishes from Mexico are especially hazardous and should be used for decoration only, not for food, unless they have been tested and found to be lead free.

Lead from work, work done at home, and hobbies

Those who work with lead can contaminate their car and home with lead dust carried on their body, clothes and shoes. They can be lead-poisoned themselves and can expose children to lead. Some jobs that may expose a worker to lead include home painting and renovation, auto radiator repair, metals salvaging and shooting or working at a firing range. Hobbies that use lead include working with stained glass, making lead fishing sinkers, and shooting, casting and reloading leaded bullets. Workers and hobbyists should change clothes and wash up before getting in the car or coming into the home and wash work clothes separately from the family laundry.

For More Information About Preventing Lead Poisoning

About the Contra Costa Lead Poisoning Prevention Project

The Contra Costa LPPP's activities and resources include:

  • Services for children, which are tiered by blood lead level, and may include family education, public health nurse case management and home environmental investigation.
  • Education and outreach to community residents, health care providers, agencies and community-based organizations.
  • Information and referrals for parents, home remodelers and child care providers.

Contact Information

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
2731 Systron Dr., Suite 250
Concord, CA 94518