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Childhood Lead Poisoning Home  |  About Lead 

What is lead?

Lead is a metallic element found in the earth’s crust. Because lead is an element, it does not break down or decay over time. Lead can be released into the environment during human activities such as mining, manufacturing, burning fossil fuels, and disturbing lead paint by sanding or scraping. Once put into the environment, lead can be a potential problem forever.

How can I tell if my child is lead poisoned?

Children with lead poisoning may not look or act sick. Even if a child shows some signs of lead poisoning, these symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses. At very high levels of lead in the blood, symptoms may include vomiting, lapses in consciousness, seizures, coma and even death.

The only way to tell if a child is lead poisoned is by having a blood lead test. A blood test measures the amount of lead in blood. Blood tests are commonly used to screen children for lead poisoning and can be easily conducted at a child’s regular check up. Vermont law requires that all children be tested at age 1 and again at age 2.

How are children exposed to lead?

Lead paint and dust from lead paint are the main sources of lead exposure for children. Children can be exposed to lead by eating, chewing or sucking objects that contain lead or by breathing or swallowing house dust or soil that contains lead. The normal behavior of young children – crawling, exploring, teething and putting objects in their mouths – can put them into contact with any lead present in their environment. Other sources of exposure include lead from a parent’s job or hobby, lead in plumbing fixtures, lead in pottery, and lead in imported products.

Learn more about Finding Lead in Your Home PDF document
 
What are the health effects of lead poisoning?

Too much lead in the body can cause permanent damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells. In children, exposure to lead may result in:

How can lead poisoning be prevented?

Lead poisoning is a serious but preventable health problem. Keep your children away from sources of lead. If you are a tenant in a house built before 1978, your landlord must look for chipping and peeling paint and fix it in a safe way. You can also help prevent lead poisoning by maintaining your house in good condition, testing your water, cleaning in a lead-safe way, and eating healthy foods.

Learn more about Lead Poisoning Prevention PDF document

What treatments are available?

The most important treatment for lead poisoning is to reduce the lead exposure. Properly removing the lead from a person’s environment helps to ensure a decline in blood lead levels. The longer a person is exposed to lead, the greater the likelihood that damage to health will result. At very high blood lead levels, physicians may prescribe medications to lower blood lead levels in a treatment known as chelation therapy.

What data about lead are included in Vermont’s Tracking program?

Blood Lead Level Data
Vermont Tracking provides blood lead data for young children in two overall categories:

1. Birth Cohort Data
2. Annual Data

Birth Cohort Data
A birth cohort is a group of individuals born during the same period or year. For blood lead data in Tracking, the birth cohort is the number of children born in a particular calendar year who are then followed until they reach their third birthday. The 2000 birth cohort (children born in 2000) is the earliest lead data in Vermont Tracking. Data for this 2000 birth cohort are shown under the year 2003, which is the year these children turned three. Tracking presents data for:

If a child has had more than one blood test before age 3, a process defined by the national tracking program determines which blood lead result is used for that child’s blood lead level.  Elevated blood lead levels are shown by both Vermont’s definition (any test 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood and greater) and CDC’s definition (confirmed tests 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood and greater).

Annual Data
Annual lead data in Tracking starts with the year 2000 and has year-by-year information for more than a decade. Years will continue to be added as annual data become available. If a child has had more than one blood test in a given year, a process defined by the national tracking program determines which blood lead result is used for that child’s blood lead level.

Annual data has two age categories for each year: “children less than 36 months old” and “children 36 months through 5 years old.”  For each of these two age categories, Tracking presents data for: 

Elevated blood lead levels are shown by both Vermont’s definition (any test 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood and greater) and CDC’s definition (confirmed tests 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood and greater).

Housing Data
The most common way that children become lead poisoned in Vermont is from lead paint and dust in older homes. Vermont Tracking provides the number and percentage of homes built before 1950, between 1950 and 1979, and after 1979.

Poverty Data
Children who live in poverty are considered to be a population at higher risk for lead poisoning. Vermont Tracking provides data on the number and percentage of children younger than 5 years who are living in poverty.

CDC Tracking Network Ask Tracking 1-800-439-8550 or click to email AHS-VDH-VTEPHT@state.vt.us CDC Tracking Network