Lead Poisoning Facts

There are no safe levels of lead. Studies have documented neurological effects, speech & hearing problems, hyperactivity, behavior, learning, & other problems with blood-lead levels over 5 μg/dL.

There are typically no overt symptoms, but the consequences of lead exposure can be dire & can reverberate through an entire lifetime:

  • IQ scores decline 2.5 to 3.0 points for every 1.0 μg/dL increase of lead in the blood
  • 20-30% of the special education caseload in urban areas is due to lead poisoning
  • 10% of juvenile delinquency is attributable to lead poisoning
  • Kids with elevated blood-lead levels are 6x more likely to have a reading disability and 7x more likely to drop out of high school
  • Children with even slightly elevated blood-lead levels do worse on math, reading, nonverbal reasoning, and short-term memory tests
  • Studies show that infants and toddlers exposed to relatively low levels of lead in utero score lower on tests measuring neurobehavioral development
  • Hypertension from childhood lead exposure contributes to adult cardiovascular disease
  • Even though asthma affects many more children, the total economic costs pale in comparison nationally, it is estimated at $2 billion for asthma versus $43 billion for lead
Click for information on lead-poisoning programs by state

The only way to know whether your child has been exposed to dangerous levels of lead is with a blood test to measure his or her "blood-lead level" (BLL). The amount of lead is measured in micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). If you have questions, ask your healthcare practitioner.

Are you pregnant? Tell your healthcare provider if you think you've been exposed to lead, or if your child has an elevated blood-lead level. Click here to learn more


Lead sources may include: paint chips, dust, & soil in or around older (pre-1978) buildings older painted objects leaded glass, crystal, pewter, & ceramic dishes (more likely in painted china & in pottery from Latin America, the Middle East, & India) herbal/traditional remedies & cosmetics from other countries candy from Mexico toys & trinkets
Doctors and Public Health, click here to learn how the LeadCare II system can help you meet your state's blood-lead screening requirements.