The Rahway Health Department has provided the information below to help you understand the dangers of lead poisoning and to understand what you can do as a parent/guardian to protect the health of your children.


What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning or lead toxicity refers to exposures to lead that result in illness and require immediate medical attention. It is used to describe cases when there are severe health effects related to high blood lead levels. 

Many factors affect how different people’s bodies handle exposure to lead. These factors include a person’s age, nutritional status, source of lead exposure, amount of lead exposure, underlying health conditions, and length of exposure. Many children  exposed to lead have no obvious symptoms. Some exposures, however, cause more obvious health effects that need urgent treatment.

No level of lead exposure or lead in the body is safe for children. Even low levels of lead that were once considered safe have been linked to harmful changes in intelligence, behavior, and health. Children are most at risk because they are still developing physically and mentally.

If you are concerned that your child has been exposed to lead, contact their healthcare provider to get a blood lead test. Based on the results of the test, actions can be taken to reduce further exposure to lead and connect them to recommended treatment and services. Lead exposure is preventable.

  1. Andrea Alvare

    Director/Health Officer

Lead Poster RRS v4A pdf

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Where can Lead can be found?

  • Paint found in homes built before 1978
  • Imported consumer products such as cosmetics, spices, cultural home remedies, pottery, and toys
  • Take-home lead from hobbies and occupations
  • Water pumped through leaded pipes
  • Contaminated soil and air

How are children exposed to lead and why is it harmful?

Children are exposed to lead by swallowing or inhaling it.

Lead affects the brain and nervous system. In children, this can result in:

  • Lowered intelligence
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention deficits
  • Developmental problems
  • Decreased hearing

How can I prevent my child's exposure to lead?

  • Wash your child’s hands frequently before eating, after playing outside or on the floor, and before sleeping.
  • Wash toys, bottles, pacifiers and other objects that children handle and put in their mouths
  • Leave shoes at the entrance to your home.
  • Keep your child away from bare soil.
  • Feed your child healthy foods high in iron and calcium.
  • Store foods and liquids in lead-free containers.
  • Clean floors and windowsills using a damp mop or sponge and detergent.
  • Know if your home has lead-based paint before doing renovations or remodeling.
  • Use lead-safe work practices or hire a Certified Renovator if your home was built before 1978.
  • Use only cold tap water to prepare formula, for drinking and cooking.
  • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking.
  • Wash work clothes separately if a job uses lead.

How do I know if I have lead-based paint in my home and how do I safely remove old paint?

Assume that your home has lead-based paint if it was built before 1978. If you are not sure, hire a Lead Evaluation Contractor.

What should I do if I want to have lead-based paint removed from my house?

• Don't remove lead-based paint until you have reviewed these Lead Safe Work Practices
• Hire a Lead Abatement Contractor
• Hire a Certified Renovator

Testing for Lead Exposure

There are two testing methods determining whether a child has been exposed to lead. One involves taking blood from a finger (capillary) and the other from a vein (venous).

What is New Jersey's testing law?

  • All children should be tested at both 12 and 24 months of age
  • Any child 25 to 72 months (less than 6 years) of age who has never previously been tested 
  • Any child up to 72 months of age who has been exposed to a known or suspected source of lead

Where can my child be tested?

  • Your child’s health care provider may offer blood lead testing in the office or provide a prescription to take your child to a laboratory.
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) can provide or arrange testing.
  • If your child does not have health insurance, free testing is available from your local health department.

Does insurance cover this cost?

  • Every health insurance plan in New Jersey covering a group of 50 or more persons, including Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) and Managed Care Organizations (MCO), is required to cover the cost of lead testing without any deductible.
  • If your health insurance plan covers a group of 49 or less persons, your child can receive testing on a sliding fee scale (based on your household’s income) from a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).

What happens if my child has an elevated blood lead level?

Your child's health care provider will:

  • Tell you when your child needs to be retested
  • Provide prevention information to reduce or eliminate your child’s further exposure
  • Work with your local health department

Your local health department will:

  • Arrange a home visit by a nurse case manager and lead inspector/risk assessor
  • Educate you about the effects and prevention of elevated blood lead levels
  • Assist in testing of siblings, other children and pregnant women living in the same household
  • Educate about nutrition, handwashing, housekeeping, and other ways to reduce your exposures
  • Assess your family’s needs for community resources
  • Collect information about your home
  • Test painted surfaces