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Get smart to get the lead out.

Health Effects

There is no safe level of lead exposure.

Lead is a poison that affects nearly every system in the body, including the brain and nervous system. Lead is especially dangerous to children under the age of six, as their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead and their growing bodies absorb more lead.

Between 2015 and 2018, 1,763 young children were identified for having elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs), as ‘new cases reported to Allegheny Health Department (ACHD).’ According to recent ACHD inspections, the top sources of lead poisoning are paint, dust, and soil.

Lead poisoning contributes to:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems (reduced IQ, ADHD, juvenile delinquency, and criminal behavior)
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Other problems can include: kidney disease, hypertension, heart disease, anemia, slowed puberty

There are no effective treatments for the permanent cognitive and behavioral damage that occurs when a toddler has lead poisoning.

Exposure

Where can lead be found?

Paint and dust

Lead paint was commonly used until 1978. With 85% of our Pittsburgh-area homes built before 1978 and more than 1,700 new cases of lead poisoning in our children: we’ve got a problem.

When the lead paint chips, crumbles, begins peeling, or is disturbed by demolition/renovation, the resulting dust contains lead and poses a health risk.

Learn more about lead-safe practices and take action.

Water

Lead-containing pipes were used until 1986. These pipes can wear down and release lead into the drinking water. Plumbing fixtures and fittings can also contain lead, if they were purchased before 2014. All these sources present a health risk.
Municipal water authorities are required to test for lead in drinking water every three years. These utilities are required to maintain healthy drinking water.

Learn more and take action.

Soil

Lead paint on the outside of buildings may weather and cause lead contamination in nearby soil. Demolished buildings or vacant lots may also have lead in the soil, especially if lead-containing products were used in the once-standing property.

Other sources of lead in soil are past use of leaded gasoline and industrial sites, such as smelters, batteries and incinerators.

Learn more about lead-safe practices and take action.

Myth vs. Fact

Test your knowledge about lead poisoning.

Myth

The Allegheny County Health Department requires a venous blood test when a child tests with an elevated blood lead level of 5 micrograms/deciliter, so anything below those levels must be safe.

Fact

There is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead poisoning (even at levels less than 5 micrograms/deciliter) causes permanent, negative impacts on children, including decreased academic achievement and increased behavioral and attention-related problem. At less than 10 micrograms/deciliter, additional challenges include decreased IQ levels, reduced physical development, delayed puberty, and hearing loss.

Myth

Lead exposure is only a problem in low-income communities.

Fact

Children in all corners of Allegheny County suffer from lead poisoning.

Myth

Water is the most prevalent source of lead poisoning in our community.

Fact

According to recent Allegheny County Health Department inspections, the top sources of lead poisoning are paint and dust.

Myth

I just purchased my home, so I know it’s safe.

Fact

80% of homes in Allegheny County and 85% of homes in Pittsburgh were built before the ban on lead-based paints in 1978. Unless the home buyer asks as part of inspection, home sellers are not required to test for lead. Even if your home was built after 1978, lead in the water and soil may still be present.

Myth

Adults aren’t affected by lead poisoning.

Fact

Lead is especially dangerous to children under the age of 6, as their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. However, the cumulative negative effects of lead exposure can be seen in adults.

Myth

Effective treatments for lead poisoning are available.

Fact

Since no level of lead is safe and there are no effective treatments. The only way to protect children from lead poisoning is to eliminate lead from the child’s environment. Preventative measures can and should be taken by all. Join and take action to demand change about lead poisoning in Allegheny County now.