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Lead-Safe Wisconsin: Prevention and Intervention for Childhood Lead Exposure

White house with green trimmed showing peeling lead paint

Childhood lead poisoning is a significant problem in Wisconsin. Our state consistently ranks in the top 10 in the nation for number of children with lead poisoning.

Lead can affect a child’s:

  • Brain development
  • Growth
  • Lifelong health and potential

Preventing lead exposure is critical because there is no safe level of lead in the human body.

We can reduce lead exposure through early detection—by performing blood lead testing on children and adults at high risk. By intervening early and performing comprehensive follow-ups, we can prevent prolonged exposure.

Young children are most at risk for harmful effects of lead. Lead exposure can affect health, growth, behavior, and learning, which can impact success in school and later in life. These resources provide an overview of the damaging effects of lead on children:

Home maintenance

There is no safe level of lead in the body. That’s why protecting kids from lead exposure is critical. It is important to check your home for chipping and peeling lead-based paint and other lead hazards.

Common home renovation work, such as repairs and painting, can disturb lead-based paint. This can create hazardous lead dust, which can harm adults and children. Even a small amount of lead dust is enough to put your family at risk.

Find more information on the Check and Maintain Your Home for Lead page.

More resources on preventing lead poisoning exposure in the home


Regular, well-balanced meals are important for children’s growth and development. Research has found that getting enough iron in a child’s diet can help lower the amount of lead they absorb. That’s important because lead exposure and iron deficiency can both harm a child’s development.

Eligible families of children with lead poisoning can receive nutritional support from WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children). Wisconsin has WIC offices across the state. Find contact information for your local WIC office.

More resources on nutrition related to lead poisoning

Lead poisoning doesn’t typically cause noticeable symptoms. The only way to know if a child has experienced lead poisoning is through a blood lead test. Read about Medicaid lead testing requirements, Wisconsin screening recommendations, and what guardians should know about a child’s blood lead results below:

Lead in paint, the environment, and consumer products

Exposure to lead-based paint is the major source of lead poisoning for children in Wisconsin. Lead was banned from paint for inside and outside use in homes in 1978. Homes built before 1978 can still have lead-based paint in the layers under the surface paint. When the lead-based paint deteriorates or is disturbed through renovation lead dust is created. Young children are then likely to swallow the dust through normal hand-to-mouth activity.

Lead can also be found in air, soil, and water. Learn more about where lead is commonly found in Wisconsin and how people are exposed.

Sometimes lead is in items like toys, jewelry, spices, cosmetics, traditional medicines, cookware, and ceramic glazes. Learn about these other sources of lead.

Lead from parents’ occupations or hobbies

For adults, the workplace can be a primary site of exposure. Adults may work with products containing lead, or in areas where lead dust or fumes are produced. Lead is commonly found in industries, such as construction, manufacturing, and transportation.

Workers can be exposed to lead when:

  • Working with lead solder or melting lead in a furnace or pot.
  • Sanding or sandblasting areas coated with lead paint, causing lead dust.
  • Torching areas coated with lead paint, causing lead fumes.
  • Cutting or soldering metal, causing lead fumes.

Workers can bring lead home with them on their clothes, hair, or shoes. Take-home lead is a source of exposure for children in the home.

If you work with or near lead, the best way to keep lead dust out of your home is to keep it from leaving work. Read Keep Your Family Safe: Don’t Bring Lead Home from Your Job, P-01737 (PDF), to learn how adults can protect themselves and their families.

Learn more about prevention and intervention of adult lead exposure from the Adult Lead Program.

Lead is recognized as toxic to reproduction for both men and women. If a person has lead in their blood during pregnancy, their developing baby can also be exposed. Lead in the blood during pregnancy can increase risk of:

  • Miscarriage.
  • Preterm delivery.
  • Delivering a low birth-weight baby.
  • Learning or behavior problems for the child.

Additional resources

Last revised April 12, 2024