Test your home for lead
If your home was built before 1978, talk with your local health department about getting your home tested for lead. Ask the landlord about lead before you sign a lease. Before you buy a home, have it inspected for lead.
If you don't know how old your home is, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to assume there is lead.
What you can do
Here are tips from the pediatrics academy on how to prevent lead exposures.
Keep your children away from old windows, old porches and areas with chipping or peeling paint. If the window is in your home, cover it with duct tape or contact paper until it can be completely removed. If you rent your home, let your landlord know about any peeling or chipping paint. Landlords are legally required to repair lead problems found on their property.
Before any work is done in your home or apartment, learn about safe ways to make repairs. Seal off the area until the work is done and keep your child away until everything is cleaned up. Be sure to use a certified contractor. If lead paint isn't removed in a safe way, you and your child can be harmed by increased exposure to lead dust. See the EPA's Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule Web page for more information.
Do not allow your child to play in the dirt if you have an older home, as lead can also show up there. Plant grass over bare soil or use mulch or wood chips.
Clean your home regularly. Wipe down floors and other level surfaces with a damp mop or sponge. Take shoes off at the door to track in less dirt.
Teach your children to wash their hands, especially before eating. Wash pacifiers and toys regularly.
If your work or hobbies involve lead, change your clothes and shoes and shower when finished. Keep your clothes at work or wash your work clothes as soon as possible.
Use cold flushed tap water for mixing formula, drinking or cooking. If you are in an older home, run the water for several minutes before using it in the morning and start with cold water for drinking or cooking.
Serve healthy foods. Some items, especially baby and toddler foods, are known to have detectable levels of lead in them. Reducing your child's exposure to lead is key. Give your child a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods that are high in calcium and iron. A good diet can help your child absorb less lead.
How widespread is lead paint?
In the Cincinnati region, homes in the city are most likely to have lead in their paint, probably buried under subsequent coats of paint. If the lead paint is encapsulated, it's safe. If it's cracking or flaking, it probably isn't.
Seven of every eight housing units in Cincinnati was built before the lead paint ban went into effect in 1978, an Enquirer analysis of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates show.
But lead paint isn't just an urban problem.
In Boone County, 27 percent of all housing units were built before the lead ban – and it has the newest housing stock among the seven counties of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
In Hamilton County outside the city, 70 percent of the housing was built before 1980 and the lead ban in 1978. In Campbell and Kenton counties, nearly 60 percent of the housing was built before 1980. In Butler County, it's 51 percent; in Clermont County, it's 43 percent; in Warren County, 34 percent.
Who is most at risk for lead poisoning
Five groups of children are at higher risk of exposure to lead, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They:
Have poor families.
Are part of racial-ethnic minority groups.
Live in older, poorly maintained rental properties.
Are recent immigrants.
Have parents who are exposed to lead at work.
In addition, the CDC warns that pregnant women who breathe or swallow lead (primarily in dust) are at higher risk of miscarriage, as well as having their children prematurely. The babies can have damage to their brains, kidneys, and nervous systems and be prone to learning or behavior problems.