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Get the Lead Out

Lead, No Amount is Safe

Even low levels of lead in blood affect brain development, and no amount of lead in the body is considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children under the age of six and developing fetuses are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure. This is because their brains and bodies develop rapidly and young children may touch, mouth or eat objects contaminated with lead dust.

Lead poisoning is preventable. The key is to keep children from coming into contact with lead.

When is testing warranted?

Blood lead testing is currently required for Medicaid recipients at 12 and 24 months of age. The CDC and DHSS also recommend testing if you or anyone in your family has had exposure to lead. Ask a health care provider if you have questions or concerns, or call the Alaska Lead Surveillance Program in the Section of Epidemiology, 907-269-8000.

Where is lead found?

Lead has been removed from many products, but it occurs naturally and continues to be used in a wide range of products. We’re fortunate in Alaska to have mostly newer homes without lead paint or pipes, but we do have many sources of lead exposure, including:

  • Mining of lead, zinc, silver or gold ore
  • Lead paint in homes or buildings built before 1978
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Shooting ranges
  • Consumption of game meat shot with lead ammunition
  • Fishing weights
  • Leaded aviation gas
  • Marine paint
  • Soldering, welding or craft making
  • Pica or mouthing (eating dirt)
  • Imported household objects
  • Lead or brass pipes/faucets
  • Batteries and automobile repair

Learn more about where lead is found and reducing exposure from EPA's Lead website. To learn more about lead in drinking water, visit the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Environmental Health, which oversees safe drinking water in Alaska.

Prevent exposure to keep your family lead-free

  • If you work around lead, remove your work clothes and shower immediately after work to prevent the transfer of lead contamination into your home. (See Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations 1910.1025 (1) and (2) for more information).
  • Consider using non-lead ammunition and fishing weights when hunting or fishing.
  • If you live in a home built before 1978 and you suspect lead paint, have it tested. If you are remodeling an older home, take precautions and follow EPA rules.
  • Keep children away from all manmade lead sources such as lead fishing weights, firearms and ammunition, aviation gas, and marine paint.
  • Don’t let young children near areas known to contain lead, such as workshops where lead is used. Keep these areas well ventilated and clean.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or smoke while handling lead. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching lead.

How is lead testing done?

The decision to test blood lead levels should be made with your health care provider. The test is simple and uses a finger stick to collect a capillary blood sample. Lead poisoning occurs when blood lead levels (BLLs) are elevated.

In Alaska, follow-up telephone investigations are conducted for children under age 18 when the initial BLL is 3.5 µg/dL or higher and for adults when the initial BLL is 25 µg/dL or higher. For occupational exposures, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires follow-ups when BLLs exceed 40 µg/dL.

When a child has an elevated blood lead level (EBLL), the most important intervention is to identify the source of lead exposure and prevent further contact with lead. If you suspect lead in your home, inexpensive lead testing kits are available at most hardware stores.

Children should also consume a diet that is rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C to help lower blood lead levels. Proper developmental screening, playing with your child, and early education will also mitigate the effects of lead exposure. The CDC recommends PDFfive things you can do to help lower a child's blood lead level.

Alaska’s Lead Surveillance Program

To learn more visit Alaska’s lead surveillance program website. To contact us, email the Environmental Public Health Program or call (907-269-8000).