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What do I need to know about lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning has long been a problem in Northeast Ohio. Children are exposed to lead through paint chips, lead in the soil, and lead in toys. Exposure to high amounts causes lead poisoning, which impacts how our children learn, behave, and develop. Visit for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland.

Who is at risk?
Children ages 0-6 and pregnant women are at the greatest risk. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts renters, minorities, and low-income residents who have less access to affordable, quality housing. Certain zip codes are at higher risk for lead hazards because of the age of their housing and the number of other children who have been poisoned there. (For a list of high risk zip codes, click here.)

Where is this problem?
Anywhere children may be exposed to lead. Common sources include old homes with peeling paint, the yard around such homes, outside near high traffic areas, old school buildings, and other buildings where children spend time (e.g. relatives, babysitter, and day care).

What are the signs?
Lead poisoning can cause many negative health impacts but children may not immediately present any symptoms of lead poisoning. Some long term consequences of lead poisoning in children include behavioral problems, cognitive delays, and trouble learning. High levels of lead poisoning can lead to hospitalization. Housing inspections don’t routinely check for lead so parents must spot potential lead hazards in the home and insist on having their child’s lead level’s tested.

When do I need to address this?
Immediately. If your child has not been tested for lead poisoning, talk to your pediatrician. Medicaid pays for lead testing.

What can you do if you’re concerned?
In addition to having your child’s lead levels tested, you can take some steps to limit their exposure to lead. Use HEPA vacuum filters and vacuum windowsills, wipe surfaces periodically, keep shoes at the front door to not track in lead, wash your kids’ hands and faces routinely, clean toys, watch where they play (avoid areas near peeling paint), feed them three meals a day with plenty of iron and calcium (greens, protein, milk). If your child’s lead levels are high, try to identify the source of the exposure and if necessary, talk with your landlord or explore moving to a new home.

My child has been poisoned, what are my options?
• Get your house inspected. Contact your local health department to request an inspection.
• Request that your landlord remedy the lead paint problem.
• Discuss your options for suing your housing provider with an attorney.
• Seek early intervention. Talk to your pediatrician and contact your county’s Help Me Grow program for enrichment services that can help mediate the impact of lead poisoning.
• Inform the school and ask for your child to be evaluated for special education services to address cognitive or behavioral problems.

Visit the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition website at for information about resources related to lead poisoning in Cleveland. You can also visit the Lead Safe Resource Center at 4600 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44103 or call the Lead Safe Hotline at (833) 601-5323. For additional information and resources, visit

By Lauren Roberts

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