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Lead - Your safe home

Marilyn Bode, Former Assistant Extension Housing Specialist, College of Human Ecology
Wanda Olson, Housing Technology Specialist, College of Human Ecology
Reviewed 2006

Our homes are not always safe places. Sometimes things in our homes can be bad for our health. Lead is one of those. Lead is a metal that has many good uses, but it can hurt us and, most of all, our children.

Where is lead found?


Lead can be found in old paint.
Lead used to be in paint, but now that we know lead can hurt us, paint is no longer made with lead. If your house has old paint on the walls or woodwork, that old paint may have lead in it. As paint gets old it crumbles off walls and woodwork. The old paint becomes part of the dust in our house. Eating or breathing that dust is how lead can get into our bodies.

Lead can be in the dirt around your house.
If lead paint was used for the outside of your house, it can peel off and crumble on the ground. That is one way lead gets into your yard.

Lead can be in some jobs or hobbies.
If you work in a job where lead is used, it can come home on your clothes. Hobbies, like making lead bullets or lead glass windows, can bring lead into your home on clothing.

Who is in danger?

Children are most likely to get sick because their bodies take in lead more easily when their bodies are quickly developing Children who live in older homes with lead paint are most in danger, because lead can be on things they put in their mouths.

If you are remodeling an older home or removing old lead paint, harmful lead dust settles on everything in your home. It is especially dangerous for children six years and under, and pregnant or nursing women. Lead in a mother's body can harm both her and her baby. Lead from remodeling projects can also harm other children and adults in the home.

What happens to us when lead gets in our bodies?

Lead can hurt our bodies. Children can have hard time learning, behaving normally, and paying attention if their bodies have too much lead. Adults with lead poisoning may have high blood pressure or damage to their kidneys or other organs. Most people with too much lead do not seem sick until their health problems become very serious.

How does lead get into our bodies?


Lead gets into our bodies through our mouths and noses.

For example:

How can I find out if my home has lead in it?

If your home was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint. Tests can be done on your house dust, water, dirt, and paint to find out if they have lead. Many hardware stores have home lead tests that cost $5- $10 for a few samples. Call the Minnesota Department of Health to learn about more extensive testing.

Should my child be tested for lead?

Have children tested if:

Ask your doctor to test your child's blood to find out how much lead is in it, because the only way to know is to test.

How can I protect my child?

Remove lead paint from your home if you can.
Removing lead paint can be costly and harmful if not removed safely. Check with your local health department to find funding to fix lead problems. Call the Minnesota Department of Health at (651) 201-4610 for advice on how to remove lead safely. Have your child stay somewhere else while lead is being removed and lead dust is cleaned up.

Cover walls and woodwork when old paint is coming off if you can't remove the paint. This will keep children from coming near it.


Wash your children's hands and faces many times a day, especially before they eat or go to sleep.







Wash your children's toys often, and anything else they put in their mouths.

Clean areas that have lead paint on them.






Feed your child well.
A healthy diet helps keep children from lead poisoning. These are examples of foods that will help keep your child healthy: milk, red meat, dried beans, fruits, vegetables, and cereals and infant formula that have iron added. Eating more healthy foods like these and fewer fatty foods like chips and chocolate will help protect your child.

Make outdoor play areas safer.
If dirt in your children's play areas has lead in it, cover the area with grass, shrubs, or wood chips.



Put a rug that you can wash in front of the door to your house.
Have everyone wipe their shoes on the rug before they come in and leave their shoes by the door. Then dirt with lead will not get tracked in. Wash the rug often.






Make your water safe.

If your water has lead in it, or if you don't know whether your water has lead:

Do not use hot water from the sink for cooking, making baby formula, or making foods or drinks. Always use cold water and heat it.

Run your cold water for 1 or 2 minutes before using it every morning.


What is the most important thing I can do?

Ask your doctor to test your children for lead. If they have too much lead in their blood, talk to your doctor about what should be done to protect your children. The Minnesota Department of Health can also help you decide how to make your home a safer place.  For help with questions about lead, call (651) 201-4610.  Fact sheets for lowering children's blood lead levels and cleaning are available in Hmong at

Karen Burke, Educational Development System, Minnesota Extension Service.
Mery Amalia Mendoza
Dan Ashby

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