skip to main contentskip to main navigation
State of New Jersey Deapartment of Human Services title graphic  
Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities
New Jersey Helps
NJ 211 Community Resource Website
New Jersey Housing Resource Center
New Jersey Mental Health Cares Hotline
NJ Family Care

Lead is a heavy metal that has been used for centuries for many purposes because it helps to stabilize and add weight to other metals and elements.

Lead has been mixed with paints, gasoline, crystal and glass, plastic, solder, and many other common products. 

1. Have Clout! Get the Lead Out!
Until the 1970’s, lead could be found almost everywhere in New Jersey and throughout the United States. Our homes were covered with paint that contained lead. The cars we drove used gasoline that had lead added to it. Our dishes were covered with leaded glazes. Our water pipes, and sometimes even water tanks and cisterns, were coated with lead. Plastic mini-blinds, batteries, ink, crayons and chalk, and many other household goods had lead in it. Even some make-up and hair dyes contained lead.
If lead just stayed  well mixed in the products to which it had been added, it wouldn’t be a problem. But it doesn’t. Lead often "leaches" or comes to the surface of the materials to which it’s been added. It mixes with fumes released into the air by gasoline or industrial products so we breathe it. Eventually, the lead settles in our ground where we grow our food and is absorbed by plants or consumed by animals, so we eat it.

The problem is that lead is toxic or a poison when we eat or breathe it. It doesn’t have any healthy qualities for humans and can make us very sick. Babies, young children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to the bad effects of lead. Unfortunately, lead has a sweet taste. Toddlers who like to put everything into their mouths may suck on things that have lead in it because it tastes good. The lead affects the way their brains and bodies develop. When they eat too much lead, it can cause permanent brain damage, cause poor behaviors and seizures, and, in extreme cases, result in comas and death.

Pregnant women should also avoid exposure to lead paint and dust because lead in the blood is carried to the developing fetus. Once exposed, the fetus may be harmed. In addition, lead is stored in our bones. When a woman becomes pregnant, the lead that has been stored in her bones may be released and carried by the blood to the fetus.

The fact sheets in this Get the Lead Out package will give you tips on how to minimize your own exposure and your children’s exposure to lead.  It is important to remember that medical practices, housing regulations and other issues related to preventing lead poisoning change periodically.  To insure you have the most recent legal and regulatory requirements, visit The Leadsafe NJ Program at and Legal Services of NJ at


Lead poisoning can be prevented!

2. Don't Be a Jerk! Leave Lead at Work
Many people work in places that use lead. Some work places where it is common to be exposed to lead include autobody repair shops, marine painting and sanding, radiator work, foundry work, demolition of older buildings and cars, and battery manufacturing. Other industries include welding of old, painted metal, thermal paint stripping of old buildings, painting bridges, machining or grinding lead alloys, jewelry, and pipe cutting.



Lead dust may settle on your clothes, in your hair and on your skin, and in places you’d never think of. Before leaving work, wash as much exposed skin as possible and change your clothes. By law, some types of work sites must provide shower facilities to their employees. If yours does, be sure to shower at work.

Most work sites don’t have laundromats available to their employees. After changing your clothes, put them in a plastic bag and store up enough for a load of wash, if you can. Be sure to wash these clothes separately from your children’s as not all of the lead may be rinsed out.

Many children like to help with the laundry. This is a good way to teach them about housekeeping. However, do not let them sort or touch the clothes you brought home from work to be washed.

3. It's Best to Get a Lead Test!
We are lucky because we live in one of the few states in the nation that has a law ordering all children to be tested to find out how much lead is in their bodies. When you take your children to the doctor for their physicals, make sure to have your children tested for lead. Even though your children may not look sick, they could still be lead poisoned.

The lead test consists of taking a little blood from your child. The doctor, nurse, or a specialist called a phlebotomist or "blood taker," will prick your child with a needle and withdraw some blood. Usually, the blood is taken and examined for other things as well as for the lead level. The blood is then sent to a laboratory that will analyze how much lead is in your child’s body.

The language describing the amounts of lead is not familiar to most of us. It is measured in ug/dl or micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. 
Blood lead levels below 9 ug/dl means that your child has some lead in her body.  Good nutritional foods that are high in calcium and iron, like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, will help to lower the amount of lead naturally.  If the level is above10 ug/dl, your child’s doctor will want you to bring her back for repeated tests and will give you information on ways to keep your child from getting higher lead levels.  If the lead level remains at 15 ug/dl or higher after several tests, the doctor may put your child into medical management.  It is important to remember that the level at which your doctor may start these practices may change as we learn more about the harmful effects of lower levels of lead upon child development.

Let your doctor know if you are having any repairs done to your house. If you are not sure where the lead exposure is, call your local health department for help in checking your home for lead paint and other lead hazards.

Doctors use different blood lead levels to decide when your child needs more intensive medical intervention. If your child’s blood lead levels gets too high, your doctor may put her/him into a hospital where s/he will be given medicines to remove lead from the body. Your child may need x-rays and other tests. When higher blood lead level drops, your child will be put into medical management. In addition, if your child’s blood lead level is high, the doctor will inform the local health department.

Because the most common ways children are poisoned is by eating lead paint chips or breathing lead in dust, an inspector will come to your house to check it for loose paint and will advise you on how to remove it or contain it.
4. My Child's Good Health Is Real Wealth
Use this sheet to keep a record of your child’s blood lead level. Fill it out after taking your child to the doctor. Ask the instructor for additional copies of this sheet, so you have one for each of your children.

This is __________________________(child’s name) lead history.

Test Result_______________________Date______________________

Things the doctor said I should do:_______________________________



Test Result_______________________Date______________________

Things the doctor said I should do:_______________________________



Test Result_______________________Date______________________

Things the doctor said I should do:_______________________________



Test Result_______________________Date______________________

Things the doctor said I should do:_______________________________

5. Lead Can Be Beat by Having Good Foods to Eat!

Eating the right foods can help protect your child from being poisoned by lead. Giving your children these foods while they are young will help them to like them more and will teach them proper eating habits.




Foods that have a lot of calories or too much fat and salt actually help your children’s bodies to absorb lead. While all children need some sugar, fat and salt, these can be obtained in healthy ways.

Fresh fruits and vegetables have a lot of natural sugars and minerals that your children need. Broil meats instead of frying them to help get rid of the animal fat. Use natural oils (unsaturated), like olive oil or canola oil, rather than animal fat, like lard and butter. Add only a little salt to your foods. You can always add a little more later.


Your children need to eat three meals a day to grow properly and a full stomach makes it harder for their bodies to absorb lead. Iron, another metal, is good for your children. It is important for their development and helps protect them against lead. Instead of taking your children to a fast food restaurant, make them tuna fish sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and lettuce. Other fish and seafood, like sardines and clams, have a lot of iron in them, too. Other iron-rich foods are eggs, lean meat and chicken, dried beans and fruits, wheat germ, and greens like collards, kale, spinach and beet greens.


Calcium also fights lead poisoning. Dairy foods have a lot of calcium in them. Milk, yogurt, cheese and foods made with milk, like pancakes and custards (both of which also have eggs in them), are good sources of calcium. Give your children ice milk instead of ice cream, so they don’t have too much animal fat. The leafy green vegetables that have so much iron in them also have calcium.


Try to avoid typical snack foods, like potato chips, french fries, donuts and pastries, that have too much fat, sugars, and salt in them.


Good snacks include popcorn without butter and with just a little salt, fresh fruit or the dried fruit roll-ups, crackers and cheese, rice cakes, pretzels, and vegetables with dips made from yogurt or low-fat sour cream. They will satisfy your children’s cravings for sugar and salt in healthy ways.

Some candies and other foods imported from Mexico, India, the Dominican Republic and other countries have lead added to them because of the sweet taste.  These products should not be eaten!

6. We're Not Kidding! Lead Is Hidden
Because lead has useful qualities, it was added to many common household products -- places you’d never think of. Lead used to be added to the paint that is used on your children’s toys. Now, if it has been made in the United States, the paint should not have lead in it. Crayons and chalk made in the US should also be free of lead.

But if they were produced in another country, particularly from a Southeast Asian country, and even if manufactured by an American company, it’s likely that the crayons and chalk will have lead in them. Check the labels!  In addition, the recent recalls of toys that were manufactured in China have confused parents and raised their concerns.  To find out if your children’s toys are safe, visit

A lot of pottery is covered with glazes that contain lead. The United States and most western European countries no longer use lead in pottery paints or glazes. Look on the bottom of pottery to see if it says it is safe to use for cooking and storing foods. If there isn’t a label or if the salesperson isn’t sure, use the pottery for decoration, but not for food. Pottery purchased in Mexico and Asia almost always has lead in them, so they’re not safe to use with food.


Many people enjoy buying pottery, dishes, toys, furniture and other household goods at flea markets. Many of these items will have lead in their glazes or in the paint that covers them. Wooden toys and furniture for babies, such as cribs, may be unexpected sources of exposure for your children. Many young children like to suck on the edges of their cribs or on toys. This may result in their being lead poisoned. Also, if you are going to refinish the furniture, do not sand or dry scrape the paint off of them and do not refinish the furniture in areas where the children are.


Other common household products also have lead in them. These items include candlewicks, pool chalk, and venetian blinds. Lead may be released into the air when candles are burned and there have been reports of venetian blinds disintegrating and leaving lead chips where children may play.

Many hobbies use lead in their processes. Stained glass, glazed pottery, shooting at firing ranges, lead soldering (e.g., electronics, car and boat repairs), casting lead shot, fishing sinkers or toy soldiers, furniture refinishing, and home remodeling often require exposure to lead. You should be sure that your children do not play in your work area or handle any materials that may contain lead. Just as you did with your work clothing, you should change your clothes before leaving your workshop and should wash these clothes separately.


Believe it or not, cosmetics or make-up from other countries often contain lead. Many cultures believe that women’s eyes reflect their health and beauty and serve as the entrance to their minds. Arab and Muslim women from the Middle East and Africa, as well as Indian and Southeast Asian women often outline the contours of their eyes using black make-up to emphasize their well-being. This make-up often contains lead. The make-up is known by several different names. Arabic or Muslim make-eye up is known as kohl or surma. Other Indian women refer to it as mesh and Hindu women call it kajal. Make-up manufactured in the United States does not contain lead and can be used safely.

Many home remedies used by cultures throughout the world also have lead in them. These "medicines" are particularly dangerous as they are ingested. These remedies include Paylooah from Southeast Asia, Azarcon from Mexico and others such as Greta, Ruedo, Corol, Mario Luiso, Alacron Kohl, Ghassard, Bala Goli, and Kandu.

7. Be Aware! Lead's in Paint, Water and Air!
The most common way we are exposed to lead is through house paint. Until the 1970s, lead was added to paint, but legislation was passed that made it illegal to add lead to house paint after 1978. Nearly all the houses in our cities have lead paint in them because they were built before this time,

When lead paint is removed, lead dust is released into the air and it is very difficult to see it and get rid of it. For this reason, a law was passed in 1995 that says that all persons who professionally remove paint must be certified to do so. This means that painters, contractors and others have to take a special course that teaches them how to remove the paint safely and how to dispose of it properly.

Many people like to renovate their own homes, but they end up poisoning themselves and their children. You should not sand or dry-scrape the paint. Instead, you either should put up wallpaper or paneling to contain the leaded paint or get professional help.

Windowsills are particular problems in old homes as they are low and are likely to be covered with lead paint. Young children like to stand by windows to look out. Sometimes, children may suck on the windowsill, thus absorbing lead. Also, many older houses have paint that is chipping or pulling away from walls. Children will eat or suck on the chips. Putting masking tape on the windowsills is an inexpensive way to contain the lead. Damp mopping and damp dusting are good ways to clean up lead dust and paint chips.


The water pipes in many older homes have copper pipes that are soldered or melded together with metals containing lead. When water sits in the pipes for over 6 hours, the lead is released or leaches into the water.

For this reason, if you haven’t used the water during working hours or overnight, you should run your water for one or two minutes. This will clear the water that has been sitting in the pipes and make it safe for drinking or cooking. Even better, don’t waste the running water --- use it to water your houseplants - but not edible vegetable plants. Always use cold water for cooking or drinking.

Paint used on the outside of your home probably also has lead in it. When you scrape it, paint dust is released into the air and your children will breathe it. Paint chips will settle into their play areas and they will put their dirty, lead-covered fingers into their mouths. Wash your children’s hands often, especially after playing, and before eating and sleeping.

New Jersey is one of the most traveled through states with many heavily used highways. Until the 1970’s lead was added to gasoline and the fumes were emitted or released into the air. Later, the emissions settled and were absorbed into the soil. Many of our older cities have major highways going through them. As a result, much of the land, including our playgrounds and schoolyards, has lead in the dirt. You can help to solve this problem and keep your children healthy by planting shrubs and grass, paving or covering these areas with woodchips. It is a good practice to wipe you feet before entering the house and/or remove your shoes.

The best ways to protect your children from becoming lead poisoned in or around your house is to teach them to wash their hands often, keep your house clean of dust and paint chips, and eat well.   

Visit to learn about the Lead Safe Housing Program and to see if you are eligible for a loan to remove lead from your home.

8. Give Lead a Fight! Know Your Legal Rights!
Many laws have been passed to protect your children and yourself from becoming lead poisoned. The federal Medicaid Act requires all children under age 6 who are receiving Medicaid to be tested for lead every year as part of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program. Older children receiving Medicaid and considered at high risk for lead poisoning also must be screened. And, New Jersey has passed state legislation that requires all children, including those whose medical care is not paid by Medicaid, to be tested at several different ages.

Another New Jersey law requires local health departments to check homes of children whose blood is confirmed BLL 10 ug/dL or higher. They can order landlords to remove any lead hazards they find. If the landlord hires a contractor to remove the lead, state law mandates that the contractor must be certified by taking a course in the safe removal and disposal of the lead.

New Jersey law does not allow lead paint to be used on toys, furniture, or housing (either inside or out) that may be used by children. By law, lead paint anywhere on residential structures is considered a public nuisance. Federal law requires that you have certain information before renting or buying any home built before 1978. Landlords must tell you any known information about the lead hazards in the home before you sign the lease. People selling their homes must also give the buyer known information about lead in the house as well. Buyers have 10 days to check for lead hazards.

The local health department is responsible for investigating violations of lead paint laws. If the local health department finds a child with a blood lead level of 20ug/dl or more living in a house that contains chipping, peeling, or loose lead paint, they must order the owner to correct the problems. By law, the local health department must inspect a residence, if requested to do so, even if your child does not have an elevated blood lead level.

Your landlord may give you a hard time if you stand up for your right to a safe home. But, a landlord cannot kick you out just because the local health department is there to inspect. However, you should not hold back your rent without first talking to a lawyer, as this may be cause for eviction.

Local housing authorities also must follow laws passed by Congress regarding lead. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must protect tenants from the dangers of lead by requiring testing for, abating or covering any lead paint hazards. If your child has a blood lead level of 25 or more and you live in a housing project, then the housing authority must test your apartment for lead within five days after it is notified of your child’s condition. If it finds lead, the housing authority must treat those surfaces where lead is found or move your family within 14 days to another apartment that does not have lead.

Most work places must follow federal laws as well. The federal agency responsible for enforcement of health and safety rules in the workplace is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For example, OSHA makes most factories give workers who use lead a place to shower and change clothes before leaving work. Unfortunately, OSHA rules do not apply to all workplaces that use lead. Small auto body repair shops and sheltered workshops are examples of work sites that are not required to follow all OSHA regulations.

*Much of this fact sheet was taken from Lead Poisoning: What It Is and What You Can Do About It, Legal Services of New Jersey, 1997.

You can also find more information at the Alliance for Healthy Homes website:

Get the Lead Out is a collaborative project of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Office for Prevention of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lead Poisoning Prevention Education Program.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided the original funds for this publication under Grant #NJLHR0042-98. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The authors and publishers are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government.

Current funding for this project is provided by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Office for Prevention of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Transparent image
OPRA - Open Public Records Act NJ Home Logo
Department: DHS Home  |  DHS Services A to Z  |  Consumers & Clients - Individuals and Families  |  Important Resources  |  Divisions & Offices  |  Commissioner & Key Staff  |  Disaster & Emergency Help & Information  |  Press Releases, Public and Legislative Affairs, & Publications  |  Providers & Stakeholders: Contracts, Legal Notices, Licensing, MedComms  |  Get Involved with DHS!  |  Notice of Non-Discrimination  |  Taglines for Language Services
Statewide: NJHome  |  Services A to Z  |  Departments/Agencies  |  FAQs
Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996 - 2008
Contact Us Privacy Notice Legal Statement & Disclaimers Accessibility Statement NJ Home Page