Resources for New Moms

Keeping Baby Safe from Lead


My house was built in 1999. Do I need to have my paint and dust tested for lead?



Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. You do not need to have your wall paint or dust tested for lead if your home was built after 1978.



Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. You do not need to have your wall paint or dust tested for lead if your home was built after 1978.

What is Lead Poisoning? 

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause well-documented adverse effects such as: 

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system. 
  • Slowed growth and development. 
  • Learning and behavior problems. 
  • Hearing and speech problems. 

This can cause:

  • Lower IQ. 
  • Decreased ability to pay attention. 
  • Underperformance in school. 

 There is also evidence that childhood exposure to lead can cause long-term harm. 

The good news is that childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable. 

How are children exposed to lead? 

Lead can be found throughout a child’s environment. 

  • Homes built before 1978 (when lead-based paints were banned) probably contain lead-based paint. When the paint peels and cracks, it makes lead dust. Children can be poisoned when they swallow or breathe in lead dust. 
  • Certain water pipes may contain lead. 
  • Lead can be found in some products such as toys and jewelry. 
  • Lead is sometimes in candies imported from other countries or traditional home remedies. 
  • Certain jobs and hobbies involve working with lead-based products, like stain glass work, and may cause parents to bring lead into the home. 
  • Children who live near airports may be exposed to lead in air and soil from aviation gas. 


Who is at risk? 

Children under the age of 6 years old are at risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths. 

Your baby can be tested for high lead levels in their blood at their well visits. Be sure to tell your provider if you live in a home that may have water or paint with lead contamination.   

What can be done to prevent exposure to lead? 

It is important to determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child spends a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare). In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint and water pipes leading into the house have lead unless tests show otherwise. 

Talk to your state or local health department about testing paint, water, and dust from your home for lead. 

  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint. 
  • If you feed your baby formula, have your water tested for lead. Until you know it’s safe, use filtered or bottled water instead of tap water to make formula. 
  • Children and pregnant women should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation. 
  • Regularly wash children’s hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources. 
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components. Because household dust is a major source of lead, you should wet-mop floors and wet-wipe horizontal surfaces every 2-3 weeks.  
  • Take off shoes when entering the house to prevent bringing lead-contaminated soil in from outside. 
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil; if possible, provide them with sandboxes. Plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips, if possible.