Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Lead Poisoning and Kids

Lead Poisoning: What It Is, How to Test, What to Do
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 15, 2007 -- Lead poisoning -- at levels that do not cause immediate symptoms -- can permanently damage kids' brains.

Before their second birthday, children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. They are, of course, more likely than older children to put lead-contaminated hands or toys or paint chips in their mouths. Moreover, a child's gastrointestinal tract also absorbs lead more readily than does the adult gut.

Most importantly, a child's rapidly developing brain is highly vulnerable to lead toxicity, says pediatrics professor John Rosen, MD, director of the lead program at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y.

"Lead can be extremely dangerous for young children and can affect their lives forever," Rosen tells WebMD. "It is better to be conservative and safe and not ever sorry about excessive lead exposure."

Lead poisoning is almost never a single event in which a child ingests harmful quantities of lead, gets sick, and must be rushed to the hospital. Instead, lead poisoning is an insidious, month-by-month accumulation of lead in a child's body.

"I have supervised 30,000 cases of child lead poisoning, and I have not seen a case of symptomatic lead poisoning for many years," Rosen says.

That's why lead-painted toys can be such a problem, says John Benitez, MD, director of the Lawrence Poison and Drug Information Center and associate professor of pediatric and environmental medicine at the University of Rochester, N.Y.

"Parents need to know it is not an acute problem," Benitez tells WebMD. "If a kid just touches and plays with a lead painted toy, it is not a problem. But if that child sits and chews on it for weeks and months and absorbs lead -- that becomes a risk."

What, exactly, is lead poisoning? How do you know if your child is at risk? What should you do if your child has a worrisome level of lead exposure? WebMD consulted experts for answers to these and other questions.

What Is Lead Poisoning?

The risks of lead have been known for decades. But there is surprisingly little agreement on exactly when a child has accumulated a toxic amount of lead.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration