Lead Poisoning Overview

Lead is a corrosion-resistant dense metal that is easily molded and shaped. 85% of lead in the US is used for lead-acid batteries, which are used in automobiles, as industrial-type batteries for standby power for computer and telecommunications networks, and for motive power.
image of mineral lead

Source: Mineral Commodity Fact Sheet: Lead—Soft and Easy to Cast Fact Sheet 2011-3045

Credit: Scott Horvath, USGS. Public domain

What is Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body as a result of swallowing, ingesting, or inhaling lead dust, and/or lead-based paint chips.

Impact of Lead Poisoning
No amount of lead level is safe for children. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, behavioral problems, and adversely impact health.

The potential health impacts of lead poisoning include
  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing and speech problems
These can then lead to
  • Lower IQ
  • Decreased ability to pay attention
  • Underperformance in school
Sources of Lead Exposure
  • Exposure to lead dust from certain job occupations such as battery manufacturers.
  • Exposure to lead dust from hobbies such as target shooting, and stained glasswork.
  • Non-paint sources: herbal or home remedies, imported spices (e.g., turmeric powder), ceremonial makeup (e.g., kohl), imported pottery, contaminated water lines.
Image of lead is found in child's environment.  1. homes built before 1978 probably contain lead based paint.  When paint cracks and peels it created Lead dust.  Children can be poisoned when they swallow or breathe in lead dust. 2. cartain water pipes may contain lead. 3. lead can be found in some products such as toys and jewelry.  4. lead is sometimes found imported candles and traditional home remedies. 5. Certain job and hobbies involve working with lead-based products and may cause parents to bring the lead home

Information for Health Care providers

Lead Testing Guidelines

  • Every child living in Chicago should be tested for lead through their healthcare provider's office.
  • Children should be tested at 12, 24, and 36 months of age.
  • Children between 3 and 6 years of age may also need to be tested. Additionally, children may need to have proof of lead testing upon enrollment in daycare and kindergarten documented via a Certificate of Child Examination.

IDPH Childhood Lead Risk Questionnaire

IDPH Public Health Nurse Form for Lead Assessment

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Resources


Recommended Actions Based on Blood Lead Level

Blood Lead Reference Value

*Note: In 2021 the CDC updated its blood lead reference value (BLRV) from 5 micrograms (ug) per deciliter(dL) to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter, based on the 97th percentile of the blood lead level (BLL) distribution in U.S. children ages 1-5 years. The CDPH Lead Poisoning Prevention Program will at this time, in accordance with the Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, continue to observe 5 ug/dL as the highest risk for exposure to lead.

Blood Lead Levels in Children

Health Effects of Lead Exposure

resources for patients

Lead and Pregnancy

Handouts or links that providers could give to their patients
Handout English Spanish
5 Things You Can Do Link Link
Are You Pregnant Link Link
Know the Facts Link Link

Consumer Information

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission list recalls on their website. Consumers can search the website for products that have been recalled due to lead hazards at the link below.

Consumer Product Safety Commission Recalls Search Database – Search here products that were recalled because they were unsafe such as lead contaminated toys.

Visit the FDA to see any relevant FDA recall information on products to avoid.

CDPH LEAD Program: What We do

Case Management
Environmental Inspection
Healthy Homes (HUD)
Community Engagement

Case Management: Children with a confirmed elevated blood lead level of at least 5 micrograms per deciliter are referred to the CDPH lead case management unit. A public health nurse will meet with family, conduct a developmental assessment, provide nutritional counseling, coordinate with a lead inspector, and make referrals for additional services as needed.

Environmental Inspection: Licensed lead inspectors inspect the interior/exterior of residences where a child has received an elevated blood level to determine if there are any lead hazards.

Enforcement: Property owners of properties that have been found to have lead hazards must have the lead hazards removed by a lead-certified contractor according to the City of Chicago ordinance.

Healthy Homes (HUD): The Chicago Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Program’s (LPPHHP) mission is to detect and address exposures to lead hazards. The LPPHHP assists low-income families who occupy pre-1978 privately-owned housing in the City of Chicago through the Lead-Based Paint Hazard and Reduction Grant

Community Engagement: The Chicago Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Program’s (LPPHHP) provides education to families, communities and other organizations such as childcare providers about lead poisoning prevention and testing.

Lead Testing/Reporting

All blood lead test results are mandated by Illinois State Law to be reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).  Blood lead test results (Capillary & Venous) that have not been reported can be reported to IDPH using this form.

Under certain criteria, health care providers may report to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH ) an elevated blood lead level of 5µg/dL or greater for a pregnant person or child up to age sixteen,  and or request a home lead inspection.  Please use this form to report elevated blood level and/or request home lead inspection.  Please refer to the criteria on the form and this FAQ to facilitate completion of  the form.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention & Healthy Homes Program
2133 W. Lexington St., Chicago, IL 60612
CDPH/Lead Program website

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