Lingering lead still a threat to kids

National Lead Free Kids icon

Lead poisoning remains the most significant environmental threat to the health of America’s children. More than half a million infants and children have blood lead levels exceeding 5 micrograms per deciliter, the reference level established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While lead poses health problems for people of all ages, its impacts are most devastating to infants and children aged six and under and to pregnant women.  Exposure to lead at an early age can cause lifelong learning and behavioral difficulties.

In the majority of cases, children are exposed to lead via inhalation of aging lead-based paint.

ead was a common additive in most house paints until a governmental ban in 1978, so experts like Bonnie Hinds, a University of Tennessee Extension environmental health and housing specialist, say older homes are suspect for lead paint content.

“As lead-based paint ages and degrades, it breaks down into fine, talc-like dust,” said Hinds. “This dust is what creates an inhalation danger.”  By conservative estimates, at least 25 percent of all American homes were constructed before 1978.

October 19-25 is designated as National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, an annual observance spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The theme of this year’s observance is “Lead-Free KIDS for a Healthy Future.”

For more information about lead poisoning prevention, contact your local county UT Extension office or the Tennessee Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 865-974-8178. 

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides teaching, research and outreach through the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and Veterinary Medicine; UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers; and UT Extension with offices in every Tennessee county.



Bonnie Hinds, UT Extension Environmental and Housing Specialist, 865-974-8178,


CDC’s infographic on preventing childhood lead poisoning