Houston Health Department

Childrena and Lead

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Children and Lead

Lead Poisoning in Children


Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around the home. Lead may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children six years old and under are most at risk.

What problems does lead cause?

High levels of lead in the body can cause problems with the brain, kidneys and bone marrow (the soft tissue inside bones). Symptoms of high lead levels can include belly pain, headaches, vomiting, confusion, muscle weakness, seizures, hair loss and anemia
(a low red blood cell count).

Lower levels of lead in the body can also cause problems, like trouble paying attention, behavior problems, learning difficulties and a fall in the IQ of young children. (IQ stands for "intelligence quotient" and is one measure of how smart a person is.)

In what ways are children exposed to lead?

Lead is a heavy metal that is found naturally in the Earth's crust. It has historically been used in a number of household products.

More than 4% of children in the United States have lead poisoning. Rates of lead poisoning are higher in large cities and among people with low incomes.