Childhood lead poisoning has significant effects on the health of children and on community health. Lead has adverse effects on nearly all organ systems in the body. It is especially harmful to the developing brains and nervous systems of children under the age of six years. At very high blood lead levels, children can have severe brain damage or even die. At blood lead levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), children's intelligence, hearing, and growth are affected. Statewide, the prevalence of lead poisoning among children under the age of six years is 7 percent. This is more than four times the national average of 1.6 percent. In a community, the presence of lead-poisoned children can be associated with an increase in the number of children with developmental deficits and learning disorders. This places an unnecessary and expensive burden on the educational system. The presence of lead-poisoned children also requires substantial community public health resources for medical and environmental case management services.
Most of Iowa's pre-1950 homes contain lead-based paint. Young children who live in pre-1950 homes become lead-poisoned when they put paint chips or exterior soil in their mouths or when they get house dust and soil on their hands and put their hands in their mouths. In addition, adults who remodel or repaint these homes may be lead-poisoned if they disturb the lead-based paint.
Although lead poisoning can cause serious health problems--including death--most lead-poisoned children demonstrate no visible symptoms. This makes it much more important to have an effective program to prevent childhood lead poisoning.