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Although preventable, lead poisoning remains a significant health concern for young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood. Elevated levels can harm a child’s central nervous system and are associated with reduced IQ, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Iowa HHS leads efforts in Iowa to prevent lead poisoning in children below the age of 6 through the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP).

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Identifying Risk

Most of Iowa's pre-1978 homes contain some lead-based paint. Assume your house still has some lead present if it was built before 1978, even if it has been renovated or repainted. Young children who live in pre-1978 homes can become lead poisoned when they get house dust and soil on their hands and put their hands in their mouths, when they breathe in lead dust, or when they put paint chips, exterior soil or items containing lead in their mouth. Large amounts of lead dust and debris can result when older homes are remodeled, repaired or painted. You should routinely check your home for possible lead hazards and check the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission recall list.  

Your child’s risk of lead exposure may also be higher if the child:

  • lives in a poorly maintained house or rental property
  • is low income or living in poverty
  • is a member of a racial or ethnic minority group
  • is a recent immigrant, refugee or was adopted from a foreign country
  • is in foster care
  • has a mental or behavioral disorder that increases mouthing
  • has parents who are exposed to lead at work

Having one or more of these conditions does not predict risk in every community, and children in these groups may not be exposed to lead and may not have elevated blood lead levels. Only a blood test can determine whether a child has lead poisoning.

Risk of lead exposure can be determined by using the Lead Exposure Risk Model. This model, developed by the Iowa Public Health Tracking Program, is a predictive tool that can be used to determine a child’s risk of lead exposure based on the age their housing, poverty level and language spoken in the home other than English. 

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Lead Prevention and Repair In Homes

Lead-based paint, lead chips and lead dust can pose serious health hazards and is still a serious concern in Iowa. Many homes and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 contain lead-based paint hazards on both interior and exterior surfaces. Buildings built before 1960 pose the most significant health risks. Whether you own your home or manage rental properties, it is very important to care for the lead-painted surfaces. Lead-based paint in good condition is usually not harmful, so it’s important to keep paint in good condition.

For information on conducting repairs on homes built before1978 contact the Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing (DIAL)

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Protect Your Toddler From Lead

Watch the latest Healthy Habit All-Stars video, featuring Lucy’s little sister Parker, and the other Healthy Habit All-Stars. In Episode 6: Parker’s Problem, the Healthy Habit All-Stars talk about lead, why it’s dangerous to kids’ health and ways to stay safe from lead. 

This episode of the Healthy Habit All-Stars is brought to you by Iowa HHS and the Iowa Department of Education. 

 View other episodes in the Healthy Habit All-Stars series. 

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Additional Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Content

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