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351,454 Children Lead Poisoned Across America

Derek Hales

Written By: Derek Hales

Published on:

According to the Centers for Disease Control over 351,454 young children were afflicted with lead poisoning in 2017. See where your state ranks in the map and data below.

Lead bloodlevels in children across the US
  1. Pennsylvania: (6.75%) 58,346
  2. New York*: (3.8%) 53,407
  3. Illinois: (4.26%) 40,900
  4. Ohio: (4.17%) 35,048
  5. Florida: (1.83%) 23,695
  6. New Jersey: (3.12%) 19,978
  7. Iowa: (7.09%) 16,884
  8. Michigan: (2.17%) 15,064
  9. Wisconsin: (3.20%) 13,286
  10. Indiana: (2.59%) 13,193
  11. Missouri: (2.88%) 13,052
  12. Massachusetts: (1.92%) 8,460
  13. Maryland: (1.83%) 8,114
  14. Connecticut: (3.38%) 7,823
  15. Louisiana: (2.00%) 7,443
  16. Kansas: (2.79%) 6,799
  17. Georgia: (0.76%) 6,136
  1. Alabama: (1.62%) 5,772
  2. Kentucky: (1.67%) 5,564
  3. Oklahoma: (1.65%) 5,287
  4. North Carolina: (0.67%) 4,943
  5. Arizona: (0.90%) 4,704
  6. Colorado: (0.98%) 3,969
  7. Minnesota: (0.92%) 3,867
  8. Washington: (0.68%) 3,664
  9. Rhode Island: (4.93%) 3,283
  10. New Hampshire: (3.32%) 2,646
  11. Tennessee: (0.54%) 2,643
  12. Maine: (3.03%) 2,419
  13. Mississippi: (0.94%) 2,219
  14. West Virginia: (1.69%) 2,083
  15. Delaware: (2.01%) 1,352
  16. New Mexico: (0.81%) 1,322
  17. Vermont: (2.05%) 760
  18. District of Columbia: (1.42%) 683
Lead Poisoning Children in the USA

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*New Your City is not included within New York’s data due to a lack of reported data.

**All other states not listed above did not have sufficient data to complete state summaries.

What is lead poisoning?

According to the Mayo Clinic, lead poisoning occurs when high levels of lead build up in your body, typically over months or years.

It can be hazardous to your health, especially for younger children. In children, lead poising can affect mental and physical development causing delays, abnormalities, or (in severe cases) even death.

Lead can be found in:

  • Paint – lead-based paints were banned in the US in 1976
  • Toys – watch out for older painted toys due to hazard of lead-based paint
  • Contaminated dust – can contain lead from outside sources
  • Water pipes – lead pipes or pipes soldered with lead can release lead into tap water.
  • Imported canned goods – lead solder is also sometimes used in imported canned goods
  • Soil – lead from gasoline or paint can settle into the soil and be stored for years

Children are at a higher risk for lead poisoning due to their immature brain and developing nervous system. Lead can be transferred by children putting infected toys, paint, soil, etc directly in their mouth.

How does lead affect the human body?

While lead in the body can be treated, it cannot be reversed and can cause serious damage to developing bodies.

When lead enters the body, it is distributed to the brain, liver, kidneys and bones by traveling through the blood.

Lead can be stored in the bones and teeth where it builds up over time.

According to the CDC, the symptoms and prognosis of lead poisoning can be related to the type of exposure a person is subjected to.

Short Term Over-Exposure

With short-term overexposure, a person may be exposed to high levels of lead rather quickly. In children, this could happen after ingesting small levels of lead or breathing in lead dust from a parent who may have job-related lead exposure on their clothing.

Symptoms of short-term lead over-exposure may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Tired
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet
  • Weakness

RELATED: Do you have lead in your home? Use these 5 methods to find out today.

Long Term Over-Exposure

With long-term lead over-exposure, the lead levels may rise over time due to repeated exposure. This could be due to job-related hazards or environments or environmental risks in the city where you live.

Symptoms of long-term lead over-exposure may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Distraction
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability
  • Nausea/Sickness

Lead Exposure In Children

Specifically in children, lead exposure can have more harmful developmental delays due to their immature body systems. If you suspect your child has been subjected to high levels of lead, consult a doctor and request a blood test.

Symptoms of lead exposure in children includes:

  • Developmental delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures

SOURCE: The Mayo Clinic

Simple ways to prevent lead poisoning

There are a number of different things you can do to help reduce the effects of lead poising and better protect your family.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the ways you can protect your family from lead poisoning include:

  • Wash your hands and toys – This helps to reduce the spread of lead-based particles through hand-to-mouth transfers.
  • Dust frequently – Lead-based dust and other particles can enter the home through outside sources. Dusting furniture and vacuuming upholstery frequently will help to reduce potentially hazardous particulate.
  • Keep soil outside – Taking off your shoes at the door and preventing kids from playing in potentially contaminated soil are two great ways to help prevent lead exposure and contamination.
  • Don’t drink hot tap water – Sometimes water pipes may contain trace level of lead. To prevent contamination from these older pipes, make it a practice to not drink hot tap water (or use it for baby formula). Lead can spread in hot water.

RELATED: How to tell if you have lead pipes in your home

How does the government help reduce lead poisoning?

For many years, the government has strove to put together programs that aid the effort to reduce lead poisoning. Below are three government programs that are designed to help with this goal.

1. Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019

In 2019, a group of bipartisan senators proposed the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act.

” This bill would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to update its lead poisoning prevention measures to reflect modern science and ensure that families and children living in federally-assisted housing are protected from the devastating consequences of lead poisoning.”    

-Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019

If this is an important cause to you, contact your local senator and see if they support this act.

2. Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992

One of the biggest dangers of lead exposure is that it can be difficult to detect. Prior to 1976 (and the ban of lead-based paints), lead was pretty common in most households.

Many residences had it, but as more and more people began to realize the dangers, they opted to rid their home of this dangerous substance.

In 1992, the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act was introduced in an effort to raise awareness and promote full disclosure of homes with lead.

This act was established by the federal Lead Disclosure Rule and requires property owners to reveal any known lead paint hazards to prospective buyers or tenants.

In addition to disclosures, this act also requires the Environmental Protection Agency to publish standards for lead in dust and bare soil at residential properties.

These actions help home buyers to be more informed so they can make smart choices for their family, prior to moving into an unsafe area.

3. Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program of 1986

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit program was created by Section 42 of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and encourages private investors to provide safe, affordable housing (lead-free) for low income families.

RELATED: How does the LIHTC program effect children and lead poisoning?

This is an important program as it helps low income families to get out of potentially hazardous environments.

The privately funded companies who create these housing options are then gifted tax credits from the government for supporting the national goal of safe housing for all communities.

Final Thoughts

Lead poisoning can be a scary and very real threat for children in the US. Children living in certain states are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of lead poisoning, as shown from our summary of lead in blood levels (data provided from the CDC).

The good news…

The good news is that many common threats for lead poisoning are becoming less common. For instance, lead-based paints were banned in 1976 and lead pipes (as well as lead sodder) are rarely used, due to the thread of lead exposure.

The fewer instances of lead used, the lower the risk of exposure is. To keep your family safe, be sure to follow safe practices to limit the spread of lead contamination as well as support local government plans and programs that limit the spread of lead poisoning.

More Resources

About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider,, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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