Lead: How Are Kids Exposed?

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Children can be exposed to lead in a variety of ways, including by ingesting lead paint (in older buildings and homes), water (through corroded lead reinforced pipes), soil (particularly around older homes and industrial sites), contact with imported toys and products that might include lead paint or plastic, and in food and herbal remedies that also might include lead.  While consumer use of lead paint was banned in the U.S. in 1978 and use of lead pipes and plumbing was prohibited in 1986, many older homes and older plumbing systems still contain lead and place people at risk.

Lead is also an environmental justice issue, as exposures disproportionately affect socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority communities and residents.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blood lead levels for both minority and economically disadvantaged children aged 1-5 were significantly higher than those of their white and economically better-off counterparts. Specifically, African American children are more than two times as likely to experience lead poisoning than white children. This is partly due to resident proximity to high pollutant areas and industrial sites that are often disproportionately located in or near poorer communities and communities with high populations of color.