How does lead harm a child?

·         Lead poisoning (build-up of lead in the body) can harm a child’s nervous system and brain when they are still forming, especially for children under age 6.

·         Lead can lead to a low blood count (anemia).

·         Small amounts of lead can build up in the body and cause lifelong learning and behavior problems. Small amounts can make it hard for children to learn, pay attention, and succeed in school.

·         Higher amounts of lead exposure can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and other major organs.

·         Very high exposure can lead to seizures or death.

Lead poisoning is preventable.

The best way to prevent lead exposure is to identify lead hazards in a child’s environment and safely remove the hazards.

 There is no known safe level of lead in the body.

 Most children do not have levels of lead in their blood that require a chelating agent. A chelating agent is a type of medicine that helps to remove the lead from the child’s body.

 What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring bluish-gray metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment. Much of it comes from human activities including burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing. Lead has many different uses. It is used in the production of batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), and devices to shield X-rays. Because of health concerns, lead from gasoline, paints and ceramic products, caulking, and pipe solder has been dramatically reduced in recent years.

 Previously, lead was widely used in house paint and motor vehicle gasoline. The Federal Government, in 1978, banned the manufacture of residential lead paint. Lead in gasoline for motor vehicles was removed during the early 1990s.

International Adoption and Prevention of Lead Poisoning

Prospective parents adopting a child from overseas need information to safeguard the health of the child. This webpage contains information for adopting parents, adoption agencies, and health care providers.

The U.S. Department of State records show that from October 1, 2008, to September 30, 2009, a total of 12,753 internationally adopted children immigrated to the United States. The largest numbers of these children were originally from Ethiopia, mainland China, South Korea, and Russia. The risk for lead exposure is much higher in many countries from which children are adopted than in the United States (123). Each country sets its own policies on regulations for environmental exposures, and some countries have stronger regulations than others.

Main sources of exposure to lead differ from country to country
Children’s exposure to sources of lead varies by country. Even within a country, lead exposure may vary by ethnic group or income level. In the United States, lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust and soil are the primary sources of high-dose childhood-lead exposure.

Children from outside the United States can be exposed to lead from

  • Ceramic or metal dishes or pots used for cooking or eating,
  • Contamination from living with a person who is exposed on the job,
  • Contamination from nearby mining and smelting,
  • Cosmetics,
  • Cottage industries (e.g., breaking up batteries or metal ore),
  • Drinking water from metal pipes or metal storage containers
  • Food, spices, and candies (from the ingredients or the packaging),
  • Industrial emissions, and
  • Traditional medicines.


Parents or Prospective Parents of Adopted Children

Parent Factsheet
Important information for parents and prospective parents of internationally adopted children to safeguard the health of children.

Video: 'Lead Poisoning Prevention among Internationally Adopted Children'

For more information contact 530-251-8183



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Contact Information

Lassen County Public Health
1445 Paul Bunyan Road Suite B
96130 Susanville , CA
Mon - Fri:
8:00 am-5:00 pm
Sat - Sun:
(530) 251-2668