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As a childcare provider, are you aware of the potential lead dangers that may be lurking in your childcare facility? The goal of the National Lead Poisoning Prevention week is to prevent childhood lead exposure before any harm occurs.

Lead can be found in all parts of our environment:

  • Air
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Inside buildings including our homes and our childcare facilities
  • Consumer Products

The most effective way to ensure that children do not suffer adverse effects of lead exposure is to remove lead hazards from the environment before a child is exposed. Lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Lead screening can be done to test for exposure to lead. There is evidence that children eligible for Medicaid may be at a higher risk for lead exposure and because of that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has mandated that children eligible for Medicaid be tested for elevated blood lead levels. However, all children under the age of six should have Blood Lead Level testing at their healthcare provider’s office or at a public health clinic. The recommended age for testing is at 12 and 24 months or between 24 months and 21 years of age if they have not been previously tested. In order to determine a child’s risk for lead exposure, healthcare providers should begin asking screening questions when the child is six months old. Health effects of lead poisoning include:

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

Most children with lead poisoning don’t show symptoms of lead poisoning unless the blood lead level is really elevated. Because of this, many cases of lead poisoning are undetected. However, some symptoms of lead poisoning may include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability

Lead poisoning is caused by ingesting or inhaling lead. The main sources of lead are:

  • Old Paint- Lead-based paint was banned in 1978. Homes built before then are likely to have lead-based paint. When lead-based paint peels, paint chips and dust settle on surfaces easily reached by children. Lead contaminated dust may be too small to see; yet, can be harmful. The dust may be inhaled or ingested. Children are most often poisoned by consuming lead dust through normal hand to mouth activity.
  • Soil-Soil surrounding homes may be contaminated from exterior lead paint that has chipped, flaked, and fallen onto the soil. The soil may also be contaminated if the building is near a current or former industrial/automotive area or if the building is next to a high traffic road.
  • Food- Lead can leech into food or drinks, which are stored in imported ceramic dishes or pottery.
  • Consumer Products-Imported cosmetics, imported toys and toy jewelry, imported candy and candy wrappers, some home health remedies such as azarcon and greta, leaded gasoline, batteries, ammunition are included in this list.
  • Drinking water – Lead can be leached into drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead erode. Most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead service lines, led pipes, faucets, and fixtures. Lead pipes are more likely to found in homes built before 1986. The only way to know if you have lead in your water is to have it tested.

There are steps that can be taken to reduce lead in drinking water:

  1. Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula
  2. Before drinking water, doing laundry, washing dishes or showering, flush your home’s pipes by running the tap.
  3. Regularly clean your faucet’s aerator.
  4. Test your water for lead- Childcare providers can request a lead test kit at the following link:

After clicking on the link, select “Sample Container Request Form”. To complete the form, use the name of the childcare facility instead of school/district name.

There is no charge for the test kit.


What steps can childcare providers take to reduce lead exposure in childcare?

  1. Choose safe places for early childcare and education- The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has created an Idaho Early Childcare Provider Property Checklist. The checklist can assist childcare providers in selecting safe locations for new facilities. The link is:
  2. Maintain your childcare facility to minimize lead hazards like chipping and peeling paint. Renovate safely by using EPA certified contractors for lead-safe work practices.
  3. Follow the steps listed above for reducing lead in drinking water
  4. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.
  5. Practice good hand hygiene, especially after coming inside, and before eating
  6. Clean floors, window frames, and windowsills frequently with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner.
  7. Keep the areas where children play as dust-free and clean as possible.
  8. Clean or remove shoes before entering facility to avoid tracking in lead form the soil.
  9. Stay up to date on all current recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) at As mentioned earlier, some children’s products have a higher risk of containing lead, such as imported children’s jewelry, antique toys, imported toys, and imported pottery.
  10. Serve children foods with a high content of iron (such as eggs, cooked beans, or red meats), calcium (such as cheese, yogurt, or cooked greens), and vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, green peppers, or tomatoes). According to the EPA, these nutrients minimize lead absorption in children’s bodies.