Reducing Exposure to Lead

Learn more about how to keep families and communities safe from lead poisoning.

How can you reduce your exposure to lead?

Treatment options for lead poisoning are limited; therefore it’s best to prevent exposure to lead. There are a handful of activities that parents and caregivers can do to prevent lead poisoning before it has a chance to occur.

  • Determine if there are lead-based risks in the house or around the community where children reside. Houses, schools and other buildings painted with lead-based paint, often before lead-based paints were banned, are potential sources of exposure, especially if the paint is cracking or peeling. Water pipes and fixtures are also potential sources of lead. Certified experts and professional cleaners who use proper stabilization techniques can reduce the risks. 
  • Where risks are known, keep children out of contaminated areas. For example, children should be kept away from areas where paint known to contain lead is chipping or peeling; or away from toxic sites in communities, including backyards and common spaces where informal recycling of materials known to contain lead takes place. For areas and soils previously contaminated, and where it is difficult or impossible to prevent children from accessing, covering bare ground with sod can help reduce exposure and prevent children from inhaling or consuming lead dust. 
  • Encourage good sanitation and hygiene practices, which can reduce exposure not only to lead but also other toxins and pathogens.
    • Wash your hands frequently, especially before preparing meals and bedtime.
    • Wash locally-grown fruits and vegetables thoroughly. 
    • Make sure children wash their hands and faces after playing outside or around areas where they could potentially be contaminated with lead.
    • Keep the home clean
      • Decrease dust in the home by mopping with water and dusting.
      • Avoid creating dust—moisten areas before sweeping. 
  • Keep lead out of the home
    • Cook with lead-free pottery, pots, and pans. 
    • Reduce your use of spices or ingredients that have been contaminated with lead. 
    • Discourage children from playing in soil that might be contaminated. If possible, have your children play in lead safe designated play centers.
    • Wash children’s toys, which may become contaminated from soil or dust. 
    • Remove children’s shoes before entering the home.
    • Have a mat at the entrance to your home to keep dirt outside.
    • For people exposed or working in lead-contaminated areas, such as near smelters or unsafe lead acid battery recycling, remove and wash work clothing and shoes and wash hands before entering home. Keep work clothes separate from other clothes. 
    • Avoid walking barefoot other than in clean areas. 
    • Avoid toxic or polluted areas that are contaminated with lead. Educate children on where these sites may be. 
    • Cover your yard with unpolluted, clean soil cover, and maintain the clean soil cover. 
    • Clear drains to prevent flooding of lead-contaminated water and soil. 
  • Encourage a healthy diet
    • A good diet is not a replacement for reducing exposure to a source of lead; however, it may help reduce the impacts of the exposure. 
    • A nutritious diet high in iron, vitamin C and calcium can also reduce the body’s absorption of lead.
      • Iron– eggs, beans, and red meat
      • Vitamin C– fruits, citrus
      • Calcium– green beans, yogurt, cheese
  • Learn which products may contain lead and avoid using them. These products vary considerably by country and context; however, products that frequently contain lead include artisanal ceramics, some spices, traditional remedies and some cosmetics.