What you can do: If you're in an older home, be cautious before starting renovations. You should assume that there's lead in the paint unless you know otherwise. Remember that home kits will only test for lead on the surface, not in the layers beneath.
Check to make sure that your contractor or painter has been certified by the EPA in lead-safe work practices. If you're doing the construction yourself, get information from the EPA or the National Lead Information Center on how to do it safely.
If there's construction going on at your child's daycare or school, make certain they are taking precautions to prevent lead poisoning too.
Lead in the Backyard or Playground
Any structures built before 1978 -- houses, schools, barns, sheds, fences, and playground equipment -- might have once had lead paint on the exterior. As that paint breaks down, it can contaminate the soil beneath it.
A child playing in a yard or playground could pick up lead on her hands and swallow it. Some types of artificial turf and rubber playground surfaces can also contain lead.
Contaminated soil can affect the plants that grow in it. Carrots and other vegetables grown in lead-tainted soil can contain lead.
What you can do: Call your local department of health and ask how to get your soil tested for lead. If it's positive, you have a few options. You could reduce the risk by covering the area with thick grass, wood chips, or gravel; you could also pave it. Fencing off the area is another way to prevent your child from playing near it.
Never grow a garden in soil that's contaminated with lead. It's not worth the risk.
Lead in Children's Toys
Imported toys tainted with lead have made news recently. The lead can be both in the paint and in the plastic itself. Sucking or chewing on the toy -- or getting lead on the hands -- can be enough to poison a child.
Old toys are also a risk, especially if they have peeling paint.
Swallowing a toy with high lead levels can be very dangerous. Several kids have become gravely ill as a result.