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Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead poisoning, the number one environmental illness of children, is caused primarily by

lead-based paint in older homes. While Illinois has made great progress in recent years, we maintain one of the highest rates in the nation for the number of children with elevated blood lead levels. The most common exposure to lead by children is through the ingestion of paint chips and contaminated dust from deteriorated or disturbed lead-based paint in homes built before 1978. About 75 percent of Illinois homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. Other exposures may be from imported goods or food containing lead.

Imagine Englewood If is well known for championing the lead awareness work on the South Side of Chicago. In the past four years, IEi’s lead poisoning prevention program has connected with and provided lead awareness materials to over 2,500 residents through LPP workshops and community outreach events. We have also assessed over 400 homes/apartments for toxic lead hazards and hosted over 12 healthy food demonstrations to help residents create a delicious diet high in lead fighting nutrients - vitamin c, calcium and iron. In September 2018,  the Chicago Department of Public Health grant, which funded majority of our lead program over the past few years, came to an end. However, we are still knowledgeable on the topic of lead poisoning and will provide facts and services as needed.

Children need to have plenty of iron in their system.

Nutrition can play a pivotal role in preventing childhood lead poisoning. It is important to help minimize the amount of lead that is absorbed and stored in the bones. Good nutrition helps accomplish this goal. A child's body requires certain minerals, especially calcium and iron. When these minerals are deficient in the body, lead absorption is increased. Children whose diet is deficient in these minerals retain more of the lead than they would have otherwise.

Foods Rich in Iron

When there is more iron than lead, the body will absorb the iron.

Iron-fortified cereals

Green leafy vegetables

Pureed meats

Lean red meats

Tuna, salmon, fish

Raisins, dates, and prunes

Dried beans and peas

Skinless poultry

Nuts or sunflower seeds

Foods Rich in Calcium

Foods that are high in calcium can also help the body absorb less lead.

Milk and milk products

Cheese and Yogurt

Green leafy vegetables

Calcium-enriched orange juice




Foods Rich in Vitamin C

Vitamin C will help the body absorb more iron and calcium.

Oranges and tangerines


Limes and lemons




Potatoes and sweet potatoes



Bell peppers

Common Questions about lead poisoning

What are the health effects of lead?

When young children are exposed to lead, it can affect their growth, behavior and development. When pregnant women are exposed to lead, it can affect their infants’ brain and nervous system development.

How are most children in Chicago exposed to lead?

In Chicago, children are most likely to be exposed to lead while living or staying in older homes or apartments that have lead paint. Most homes built before 1978 (when lead paint was banned in the U.S.) have some lead paint on the inside and outside of the building. When old paint cracks and peels, it makes lead dust. Lead dust is so small you cannot see it or smell it. Children may get lead poisoning from swallowing or breathing in lead dust on their hands and toys.

What are other ways children can be exposed to lead?

Lead can also be found in soil, water, pots, containers, candy, folk medicine, cosmetics made in other countries, and some toys and toy jewelry.

What about lead in tap water?

When lead is found in household tap water, it comes from the plumbing in and near the home, not the local water supply. Water leaving the water treatment plants is free of lead. While the use of lead pipes was banned in 1986, lead can be found in older metal water taps, interior water pipes, solder connecting pipes, or pipes connecting a building to the main water pipe in the street. Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of these items. A corrosion inhibitor is added to Chicago’s drinking water, which forms a coating on the inside of water service lines; however, if water is unused for long periods of time lead from plumbing or pipes can leach into the water.

Who is at greatest risk of lead poisoning in Chicago?

We worry most about young children (especially ages 0-3, but up to age 6) both because their brains are developing rapidly and because they are more likely to put their hands and objects contaminated with lead dust into their mouths. Children who live in older, poorly maintained homes or apartments or who have parents who are exposed to lead at work or through other activities are also at increased risk for lead poisoning.

Should my child be tested for lead?

Yes. Because Chicago has many old homes, every child living in Chicago should be tested for lead through their healthcare provider’s office. Children should be tested at 6, 12, 18 and 36 months of age (alternatively, 9, 15, 24 and 36 months). Children between 3 and 6 years of age may also need to be tested. Additionally, children need to have proof of lead testing upon enrollment in day care and kindergarten. A simple blood test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick.

Find out  more  information  about  Lead poisoning, please visit the City of Chicago Department of Health 

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