Children and Lead

Lead is a metal that occurs naturally in the environment. Although lead can be found in small amounts in the earth's crust, most of it comes from human activities such as manufacturing and mining. In the past, lead was used in gasoline, paint, metals, bullets, and batteries. We now know that lead has many hazardous health effects, and so lead has been banned or significantly reduced in these products.

Children can be exposed to lead in many ways, but most exposure happens when children put things into their mouths while playing. Lead was used in house paint until 1978, and any house built before that year could have lead paint. Chips from this paint can be ingested or ground into dust, which can be eaten or breathed in. Lead can also be found in soil, water, and certain items that come from other countries. Many children with lead poisoning have no signs at first, which makes it hard to diagnose and treat their poisoning early.

Even small amounts of lead can cause learning and behavior problems in children. Lead replaces iron and calcium and affects many parts of the body, especially the nervous system. Lead is most harmful to children under the age of six, because a child's growing body takes up lead easily. Lead can also be dangerous to a baby during pregnancy. Problems related to lead poisoning can last the child's whole life. Even at low levels, lead can lower IQ, cause attention disorders, make it difficult for a child to pay attention in school, delay growth, impair hearing, and more.

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