Lead Poisoning and Prevention 101
There is no safe level of lead for anyone. Young children have persistent mouth-to-hand behaviors that put them at an even higher risk for lead exposure. Children under 6 years old are most affected by lead poisoning because of their rapid brain development and growth.
While anyone can be affected by lead poisoning, children living below the poverty line, and children of color have a higher risk of exposure due to older housing that contains more lead than homes built after 1978.
Black children have a disproportionality higher risk for lead exposure than White or Latinx children. Three (3) percent of Black children have elevated blood lead levels compared to 1.3 percent of White children. In 2017, 7,273 children in Illinois were tested with elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) of above 5 parts per billion (ppb). From that group, 33 percent of poisoned children were Black—compared to 20 percent Latinx and 23 percent White.
To protect children from lead poisoning, test your home or center and spread the word about lead prevention!
- The Facts on Lead. The most common way children birth to 6 are exposed to lead poisoning is swallowing lead paint chips, often found on windowsills, drinking lead contaminated water, and ingesting contaminated soil. Click here to find out more about lead sources.
- Testing Your Home and Center. Illinois passed legislation that requires certain licensed child care centers and homes to test drinking water for lead and mitigate when necessary. This lead testing FAQ will help determine if you need to test your water for lead and how to test once you receive the kit.
- Testing Children for Lead. If you think a child has been in contact with lead seek a health care provider for lead testing. Even at low doses lead poisoning can have detrimental lifelong effects.
- Creating Awareness. Lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable. It’s up to all of us to test for lead present in water and paint, remove it, and share this information with our communities. For social media tips and talking points, view this lead prevention campaign.
Lead Legislation and Policy in Illinois
Illinois currently has two laws that pertain to testing for lead in water in schools and early childhood settings. Each of these rules focuses solely on water as a source of lead exposure—ignoring the risk of contaminated water, paint, and soil. The Early Intervention Services System Act defines an elevated blood lead level as 5ppb. In 1993, state-mandated screening for childhood lead poisoning in children 6 years of age and younger began. Physicians are required to test a child for lead if they are enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, or live in a high-risk area.
- In 2017, DCFS published its Policy Guide 2017.13 titled “Lead Testing of Water in Licensed Day Care Facilities,” to inform child care licensing staff and day care providers of requirements for lead in water testing for all day care homes, group day care homes, and day care centers that service children from birth-to-6, constructed on or before January 1, 2000.
- Any physician licensed to practice medicine in all its branches or health care provider who sees or treats children 6 years of age or younger shall test those children for lead poisoning when those children reside in an area defined as high risk by the Department. Children residing in areas defined as low risk by the Department shall be evaluated for risk by the Childhood Lead Risk Questionnaire developed by the Department and tested if indicated. Children shall be evaluated in accordance with rules adopted by the Department.
- Early Intervention (EI) expanded the list of Medical Conditions Resulting in High Probability of Developmental Delay to include lead poisoning as a medical condition. Children from birth-to-3 who have elevated blood lead levels of 5ppb are automatically-eligible for Early Intervention services.
Lead Removal Funding Opportunities
There are several lead removal and testing reimbursement opportunities throughout the state.
- Contact your local health department. Different counties across the state receive funding for lead testing and mitigation in their region.
- Through Elevate Energy free resources are available to help home-based child care providers in the Chicago Metropolitan Area comply with new lead in water testing requirements. Apply here.
- The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are working together to inspect homes and fix lead paint hazards in homes in specific areas. Click here to find out if you are eligible.
- Visit Illinois Action for Children’s Lead in Water website for updates on funding, trainings, testing, and general lead prevention resources.
Register Now for Fall Into Action!
If you want to learn about all of these topics and more, stay tuned for information from us on Illinois Action for Children’s upcoming public policy workshop series Fall Into Action—taking place this fall across Illinois! Register here!
Webinar: Child Care Access Report
Has access to quality child care improved for low-income Illinois families? IAFCs Research Team studied the change in supply of quality child care between 2011 and 2016 in Cook County and southwestern Illinois (SDA 14). Join our webinar on Oct. 29 from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. to learn the results and implications for early care and education policy.