20 answers

Lead Level in Our 13 Month Old

Hello all. Our 13 month old daughter had her one year test for lead and anemia a month ago and her lead level came back at a 5. Of course, I was upset with this as the national average is 3.2 for a child 1-5 years of age. We live in an old brownstone that we've been renovating slowly but have taken precautions(we go elsewhere when the work is being done for a week here and there), clean up, etc. but apparently this has not prevented exposure. My pediatrician told us not to worry and that he simply wanted to test again in 3 months instead of at 2 years to make sure it is not going up. In the meantime, I have bought a HEPA vacuum and have been mopping every other day and trying to wipe any dust that could be the culprit. As any other mothers experienced this situation? If so, what did you do and did the lead levels go down in your child? As my pediatrician told us, it is not even until a child reaches 30 that they are seen medically for this but I still feel horrible about any lead being present. We weren't stripping any paint and there is no peeling paint on the sills, etc. so I am at a bit of a loss. Any advice?

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Featured Answers

my son had the same: level 5, at 6 months.
call me, i have no time to tyoe, but it have tons of suggestions which helped!

hes fine now!

~ Alex

A friend of mine had a similar situation and took several toys away from her children that may have contained lead paint. Even with all the recalls, there are still toys made in China that have lead paint in them. She also changed the kind of sippy cups and bottles she used. Some of the take and toss cups and bottles use plastic that contains a chemical (the name escapes me right now) that has not been proven to cause problems, but is suspected to be harmful.
She did have her twins retested and their lead level came back lower.
Hope it helps!

More Answers

Dear CJ,
I am a doctor with a specialty in pediatric environmental health, so I think I can give you a good answer to your question. I have written research papers about the effects of lead, BPA, plastics, air polution, pesticides, etc on the health of children, so this is what I do every day.
Right now the science on lead exposure is that at any detectable levels below 10, chelation therapy is not recommended, but the source of lead should be identified and avoided or removed. This is because using very soffisticated tests, it has been found that even at those low levels, there are effects that can be observed in exposed children.
My recommendation would be to have you child tested again, since it is true that contamination can be an issue. The hands should be thoroughly washed before the finger stick and blood collected in a special lead-free container for proper analysis. There is no need to wait to do this.

Second, you should have your home tested using XRF. This is a portable X-ray machine that looks like a big camera. You should call a company that uses this technology. They will come, make simple a map of your house and point the machine to every wall, door, window frame, etc. They will give you a very accurate reading of where your lead problem might be. You might be pleasently surprised that the lead may be confined to one small area and then you can take steps to deal with that particular area properly.

As a mother, I also want to tell you that this happened to me. I have a 15 month old girl and she also came up with a lead level of 5. The XRF test showed that the lead was only in a small part of the kitchen and were able to fix the problem over the winter, while we went to Puerto Rico to visit my family and my husband stayed home to deal with the problem.

I commend you for all that you are doing. Using the HEPA filter, wet-wiping and mopping ARE exactly the things to do because it is incorrect to think that the lead exposure only happens when you "eat the paint chips". That is not true as the dust can also contain lead. Also, the idea that "my husband ate paint chips as a child and he is fine" is absolutely insane. We know that lead reduces IQ levels. So if being "fine" means having a few lower IQ points, that is up to your definition of "fine". Regarding your doctor saying that the you don't see the effects of this until "your child reaches 30" is also insane, but not surprising. On average, doctors receive only two hours of environmental health training in med school, so many don't know about these things unless laws are implemented to make them test for lead and other environmental causes of disease. We and many others are trying to change that and educate doctors and government on these issues. That is why we continue to have problems with lead-painted toys and BPA baby bottles in this country.

Again, I want to reasure you that you are taking excellent measures to take care of the problem. Please consider re-testing your little girl properly and doing the XRF testing of your home and you and her will be fine.

Sorry for the long email, but hope it will be useful to you and others.

2 moms found this helpful

I've done research on my own for this because we live in an old house as well. It literally takes a couple of granules of dust to affect a child's levels. This means that it can be brought in from outside if it's in the soil at all, dust in the home, etc. I got these lead test kits and they're basically swabs that tell you if there is lead present on any surface. You know, it could be some of her toys, too. Or, if she goes to a sitter or a daycare, it could be from there. You can google lead test kits and order a couple, they are around 20 bucks for a kit which includes about 5 swabs. You'll want to order a couple of them, I was swabbing everything in sight! Just make sure that your baby has a really nutritious diet because having a diet high in iron is the best defense against lead.

1 mom found this helpful

My son had lead poisoning and the main culprit was our plates that I purchased from a local department store. The FDA came in and tested the plates and they all exceeded prop 65 and some exceeded the FDA guidelines. Never would I have suspected our dinnerware. I went on a quest to find where else lead lurks and co-founded bluedominoes.com Please come check out our articles and information. You can view the video from our ABC interview by following this link. Please check your plates! http://www.10news.com/news/14598237/detail.html

Best regards,

1 mom found this helpful

Hi. I know that having a child with Lead exposure can be a very frightening and nerve wracking experience. I own a stained glass company and my daughter (now 4) was born with a lead level of 15. Her lead level is now down below 5 and my son (now 20 mos) was born with a lead level of six. Everything you are doing cleaning wise is correct. You could pay to have a company come in check the lead levels. I contacted the board of health in my town and they came for free. The most important thing you can do for your peace of mind is to contact the Lead Center at the Montefiore Children's Hospital in the Bronx. Unfortunately (or fortunately) there is not enough lead issues in this area for Doctors to have a good working knowledge oflead. Dr. Rosen is incredibly competent and helpful. He can really give you the advice and assurances you need to get through this. Since the body cannot distinguish between lead and calcium I would up the calcium intake in your daughter (eg: oj w/ calcium.) You may also want to consider putting her in Gym, swimming and/or music classes so that she gets plenty of stimulation. It's complicated to explain why here but it helps. My kids are both doing great. Here is the link to the lead clinic. http://www.montefiore.org/newsreleases/2008/February/lead...

Good luck. And try not to make yourself crazy

My son's level at 12 months was 14. How we corrected this problem is we moved. We were renting. THe landloard was not willing to correct the problem so we moved. After the move the levels came down. He had to be tested every month. Then he stopped growing (He only gained 1 pound in 18 months) so he had to have his urine checked every month too (he had protein in his urine which is a sign that the kidneys are not working). They thought he had kidney damage due to the lead exposure. Thank goodness we moved because it all resolved itself. His lead is now 2.5 (he is 6 years old). He has no more protein in the urine. The doctor still tests him once a year just to make sure. We won't know until he is an adult what long term effects there were from the lead exposure. My older son was 3 at the time and his levels were fine. I had to be tested too since I was breastfeeding him and my levels were fine as well. We are not sure why he was effected so badly when none of the rest of us were. He wasn't touching the window sills or walls. I washed the toys he put in his mouth daily too. It was just a freaky thing! Good luck


Let me get straight to the point. Don't ever compare yourself with averages especially national averages. Averages are usually based on a controlled setting.

We live in Essex County, NJ where the a great deal of the housing(including ours)is 50+ years old. When my 4 year was tested in school and her lead level came back as 3.5, the nurse administering the testing sent us a note saying that 3.5 was too high and requesting "intervention" in the form of visiting home etc.

Our Pedi told us that concern should arise when this number is 10 or close to it. When we informed the Nurse and declined her intervention, she said that the info was true, however, it was her "personal" goal that every child she examined tested 1.0 or less.

We know a couple who also live in our county, with the same issue - one of their sons tested at 5.0

This couple allowed the "intervention" which spiralled into an unimaginable chain of events. The State inspected the home and found that it contained lead paint. The owners, who are their parents were fined and forced to engage in an expensive lead removal project which never happened. The couple who were living rent free while saving for a home were forced to move out.

The child's health is most important, but please, please do not get alarmed about this without doing your research.

A brownstone is definately a type of home that, no matter what you do, you'll never get all of the lead out. The home renovation is probably the cause of the high level.

As long as your baby isn't literally eating paint chips, and as long as you are monitoring the situation, I am certain that he/she will be fine.

My husband said he ate paint chips as a child and thinks he turned out ok. The jury is still out.;)

About me: Married 15 years, 2 girly, girls aged 4 and 10.

Only level 5? Sweetheart, you have nothing to worry about. In 1996 my son was 4 and tested at 67.6. We had to vacate the house immediately, move somewhere else for six months while he underwent treatment, numerous trips to neurological specialists, and wait for the EPA to solve the problem in our home. (They couldn't)

The highest lead level was found in the soil where he played with his trucks and while I planted flowers. It was due to the landlord scrapping the paint off the porch and window ledges onto the grass. Over time it mixed in with the soil. The horizontal blinds were full of lead as was the internal paint on the staircase and window ledges. Now get this, this was a Government funded house.

So forgive me when I use sarcasm as to your child's level of being "Only" 5.

Now my son is 15 1/2 and has to take medication for the rest of his life and has a learning disability. You better believed I sued the landlord and the Governemnt agency...and won.

There are places where you can get your water tested, soil tested, and even have the EPA come out and test your home and yard. Good luck.


my son had the same: level 5, at 6 months.
call me, i have no time to tyoe, but it have tons of suggestions which helped!

hes fine now!

~ Alex

Hi C. S
Wow!! I do have some knowledge of lead.
First did they test the rest of you?
If they did not then that is good news because levels are not as high as they could be.
Second, could the test be wrong?
Third are you looking to know where she got the lead or how to get rid of it?
I cannot tell you why her levels are high or where she got the lead.
I have however had some experience with lead. So have read alot. Done alot. Seen alot. My dad used to make lead sinkers. We also had a situation with crushing some old battery cases & the dust spread over my mom's yard. Could not sell house etc. It was a mess, but for such a time as this I do know some things about lead.
OK so lead levels are dissipated by green veggies. If the lead in mom's yard was lower they could have done a cover crop and plowed it under.
I certainly would feed her lots of green veggies. I might even go to the health food store and buy good tasting green powder and put it in anything she will eat. Cookies, cereal, whatever.
Next do you give her vitamin drops? powder ? pills? When you go to the health food store ask a knowledgeable sales person what you should be giving her.
My dad had seriously high levels and the health authorities thought he was dead when they called my mom. Dad was at work. Since he was old, I don't want to tell you for a baby, but suffice to say good multivitamins and minerals will help.
Retest in about a month, or at the MD's earliest recommendation.
God bless you and may these levels go done quickly.
K. SAHM married 38 years children 37, 32, and twins 18.

Hello Cj,
The number 5 for a lead level is not too bad. I am a nurse and see way higher numbers, as your Dr. told you. However, foods high in calcium absorb lead and then it passes out of the body. as your child is only 13 months, I suggest that you give her things like yougurt, and broccoli and green leafy veggies if she will eat them.
Don't worry. she will be fine. I would not even be concerned at all unless the level was over 12 and if she had a low Hct or Hgb.

check out www.bluedominoes.com
Mom Debbie Lindgren who founded Blue Dominoes did loads of research on lead and other heavy metals after her child was in a situation similar to yours.

What I find fascinating is the information that she found about hidden sources of heavy metals ( lead, mercury, arsenic) hiding in artificial colors and flavors! There's so many reasons we shouldn't be feeding our kids neon blue and green foods!!!

Get in there and do lots of homework on this subject. Share it with the rest of the moms who don't know what they don't know about these things!

Good luck!

The most important areas to look out for are where surfaces with paint rub (eg windows and doors). There is a sealant paint that you can use to cover all surfaces which potentially have lead paint. There are also tests you can purchase at the hardware store that are easy to use and will tell you exactly where your problem areas are.
But keep in mind that it is possible that the lead test your child test took gave a false positive. My son tested high for lead when he was the same age as yours (I think it was a 12 or something). I freaked out and and did all sorts of preventative stuff (which was good). But then he got retested and it was fine. His hands had been dirty when we did the original test.
Good luck.

You might want to check what material your water pipes are made of and consider changing any that you might drink from, prepare food from, or bathe in if they are made of lead. Best wishes.

Hopefully it's just your renovations and it will all be complete soon. I've read that, if there is a fear of lead paint dust, you should wash/wipe your toddler's hands much more frequently to prevent lead contaminated dust particles from entering the bloodstream. Also, I read that old hand-me-down dressers and furniture often contain lead paint. So be sure that you don't have any of those in your home.

A friend of mine had a similar situation and took several toys away from her children that may have contained lead paint. Even with all the recalls, there are still toys made in China that have lead paint in them. She also changed the kind of sippy cups and bottles she used. Some of the take and toss cups and bottles use plastic that contains a chemical (the name escapes me right now) that has not been proven to cause problems, but is suspected to be harmful.
She did have her twins retested and their lead level came back lower.
Hope it helps!

Our almost 3 year old came back elevated at his 1 yr also. I can't remember the number, but I was horrified! The health department called us, and it freaked me out. I thought they were going to insist that we do tons of work in our home, and put our son in the hospital and all sorts of things went through my head. Turns out, of course, they just wanted to give us advice on what to do. They said never let him have an empty stomach. The lead will be absorbed into the system more easily is he is allowed to be hungry. Feed him lots of meats, and veggies. Anything the lead can leach to, and leave his body. I also gave him 1/2 of a Flintstone vitamin daily (recommended by the health dept). He was retested in 6 months, and his levels were down around the normal rate. At that time I actually was given the numbers of his previous test, and I got angry. They freaked me out over barely elevated levels.

Some of the advice I was given about where it comes from is windows. Even though you don't see any paint chipping, it can be rubbing when you open the old windows. They told us to buy a Hepa filter vacuum and use that instead of sweeping, which we do. And all the wipping down that you mentioned as well. Our older windows that we haven't replaced don't open, so I know it didn't come from them. We ripped out a wall and replaced it with drywall a few months before he turned 1, and I am pretty sure that's where his exposure came from. Most likely the health dept will send you info in the mail with the same things I have said and more. And unfortunately they might even horass you every 6 months to continue having your son tested. I ignored them when the second test came back much lower. Good luck, and don't worry too much. :)

one source could be your pipes - let the water run 10 seconds before you give any to her, especially 1st thing in the morning. Also if you and your husband are doing the work yourselves, wash your "work" clothes separately from hers. A level of 5 shouldn't cause any harm, but just remember to keep an eye on things around the house, etc.

Perhaps you should test your tap water just as a precaution, in the event she is drinking tap water or just using it to brush her teeth etc. I believe they have simple home tests for determining the amount of lead in the water, which can leach from old lead pipes. Also, in this crazy world, perhaps you should check her toys - at least any that she puts in her mouth frequently. I am sure you are monitoring this, but perhaps double check if there have been any recalls with respect to the toys relating to lead paint. Since you are being so careful1 with your home renovations, it could be some other source you are not considering.

look at spots where paint chips off. even if you have new paint, the old is underneath (obviously, i know) look around windows and doors, especially windows, and especially if your girl likes to lean her face on the windowsill and watch outside. we have chipping paint along the bottom edge of our moulding near the floor where i am constantly hitting it with the vaccuum (as i vaccuum up the paint crumbs!). ours also chips where the baby gates press into the doorways. also, i have heard that an overlooked source is the dirt outside, like if you have/had an old shed or garage or something outside, or even the paint on your house, and it is/was chipping and falling into the dirt, and probably has been for years, then your dirt then has lead in it, which they get on them when playing outside, and you/kids/company/pets all track inside. not that i know what you would do about fixing your dirt! good luck, D.

Have you checked her toys? There were MANY toys recalled over the past year or so for lead paint. I would try to look up on-line for those that contained lead paint and just double check her toys to see if you happen to have any. Also, anything wood with paint I am always leary of.

Good Luck!


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