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.
What You Can Do: It's hard to be absolutely sure if a toy has lead in it or not. Start by checking www.recalls.gov to see if a specific toy has been recalled.
Be wary of cheaper toys -- like those from vending machines or street fairs -- and especially plastic jewelry. If you notice that your child is putting a toy in her mouth frequently and you're not absolutely sure it's lead-free, take it away. To lower the risks of poisoning, make sure that your child is playing with age-appropriate toys that he's not at risk of swallowing.
Don’t let your kids play with older toys if you don't know they're lead-free. That can mean declining hand-me-downs and toys purchased at garage sales or thrift stores. Remove any toy with chipped paint.
The safest choices for toys are unpainted wood, stuffed animals, and books.
Lead in Water Pipes
10-20% of childhood lead poisoning is caused by contaminated drinking water. It might not surprise you that old plumbing -- especially from 1930 or earlier -- can contain lead. Some pipes were actually made of lead and brass fixtures can also contain some lead.