Through the Illinois Lead Program, Ford County Public Health Department (FCPHD) offers lead testing to children age 6 and younger, which helps identify children who may be at risk for lead poisoning. Through this program, FCPHD also provides information on prevention, intervention, and appropriate renovation that will reduce potential lead hazards.
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning is the number one environmental illness of children. While Illinois has made great progress in recent years, we maintain one of the highest rates in the nation for the number of children with elevated blood lead levels. Lead poisoning is caused primarily by lead-based paint in older homes.
Lead is a poisonous metal that our bodies cannot use. It is hard to see, but it is very harmful. There is no safe blood-lead level. Children age six and younger are most at-risk.
High levels of lead can cause:
- Brain development delays
- Lowered IQ and learning problems
- Trouble concentrating and paying attention
- Speech and language problem
- Anemia (a disease caused by low iron levels), which can result in tiredness, shortness of breath, and difficulty paying attention
- Damage to the nervous system and kidneys
- Seizures, unconsciousness and even death in extremely high cases
Sources of lead
- Housing built before 1978 - The most common sources of lead poisoning in children are caused by lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings. Most lead poisonings in children result from children eating paint chips or through breathing lead dust. They can also get dust and paint chips on their hands and then put their hands in their mouths.
- From mother to fetus - Lead in the blood can cross the placenta and affect an unborn child. Even lead stored in bones can be mobilized and expose the woman and fetus. Lead poisoning of the fetus can cause low birth weight, stillbirth, or miscarriage. To protect your baby, get enough calcium, and eat a well-balanced diet. Talk to your physician about getting tested for lead during your pregnancy, especially if you live in a home built before 1978, or if you have craved any non-food items.
- Soil – Lead particles that settle on the soil from gasoline or paint.
- Water – Lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes lined with lead can release lead particles into tap water.
- Cosmetics – Some cosmetics such as Kohl, kajal and surma can contain high levels of lead.
- Imported pottery – some pottery, especially pottery and bean bowls made in Mexico, have lead in the glaze.
- Candy – some imported candies have lead. Check the ‘toxic treats’ list to see the candies from Mexico that have been found to be contaminated with lead.
- Occupation – Parents who work in construction or renovation jobs, or work at gun ranges, can expose their children to lead dust. Parents can bring lead dust home on work clothes, shoes and the family car.
- Hobbies – Some hobbies that may involve activities, such as lead soldering may expose children to lead
How Can I Protect My Family?
The good news is that childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable.
Protect your child from exposure to lead hazards
Lead dust and chips can only come from lead-based paint. Lead-based paint was banned from household use in 1978, so only homes built before then are at risk for lead paint hazards.
- Keep children away from peeling paint and/or avoid putting paint chips in their mouth
- Keep children’s play area clean and dust-free.
- Wipe down windowsills and window wells with soap and water to remove lead dust and paint chips. Do this often to prevent chips and dust from piling up.
- Wash the floor often with a damp mop to clean up dust that can blow onto the floor from the open window.
- Wash the curtains and rugs often.
- Wash blankets often, especially any that young children play on when they play on the floor.
- Wash toys, pacifiers, and bottles often, and after they fall to the floor.
- Have children wash their hands for 20 seconds after playing outside, before eating and before bedtime. Hand washing helps to prevent lead poisoning.
- Take off your shoes when entering your home to keep dust out.
- Check for product recalls due to lead concerns on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Have Your Child Tested
The only way to know if your child is exposed to lead is by getting a blood test. Children age six and younger should be tested for lead at least once, especially if living in a home that was built before 1978. Contact your medical provider and request a lead test. If you qualify for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) services, lead testing is available at the Gibson Area Hospital Ford County WIC office at 711 E Pells Street in Paxton.
In Ford County, Ford County Public Health Department will visit any children with blood test results of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) and higher. We will provide a home visit by a public health nurse and an in-home inspection to determine if there is lead-based paint present.
For more information about lead poisoning prevention and healthy homes, click on the links below.
To learn more information about lead poisoning prevention, or to request your child be tested, contact our office at (217) 379-9281, or by email at [email protected].