2 Academy St, Mayville, NY  14757
Phone: 716-753-4650    FAX: 716-753-4508

   Lead-Based Paint Information


1.  Lead is the number one environmental poison of young children in the US. 

2.  Exposure to dangerous levels of lead can leave a child with lifelong learning disabilities 
as well as behavioral problems and physical problems. 

3.  Usually, there are no outward symptoms when a child is poisoned.

4.  The most common source of exposure to lead is through deteriorating 
lead-based paint and varnish in a child's own home, especially the tiny
particles of dust created as the paint deteriorates.

5.  For a child who has been poisoned, there is no cure for the developmental 
and physical problems that the poison may have caused – special education and 
intervention to minimize the impact of the damage is the only effective treatment. 


1.  Lead is the number one environmental poison of young children in the US. 

Lead poisoning affects over 300,000 children under the age of six, costing millions of dollars and preventing hundreds of thousands of children from reaching their full potential.

Lead gets into a person's body by eating it or breathing it in. An amount of lead the size of three grains of sugar is enough to poison a child if it is ingested daily.  Most children are poisoned by chronic exposure to timy dust particles in their environment.  These particles are created as paint deteriorates and painted surfaces are subject to friction and impact, such as opening and closing doors and windows.  Children do not have to eat paint chips to be poisoned. 
Click here for more info about lead levels and what they mean.

Children under the age of six and pregnant women have the highest risk of getting lead poisoned since their bodies absorb lead in the highest quantities. The human body cannot distinguish lead from calcium, and small children and pregnant women need high amounts of calcium.

Lead poisoning crosses all geographic, economic, and ethnic boundaries.  Although poisoning is most common in low-income children, this is primarily because they are most likely to be living in poorly maintained housing.  Children of middle and upper income families are also very likely to be poisoned if they live in older homes, especially when those homes undergo renovation or remodeling which disturbs the lead-based paint. 

Lead has caused sickness worldwide for hundreds of years.  Ancient Egyptians knew that swallowing too much lead could kill a person.  Doctors in the Middle Ages discovered that health problems found in miners, painters and artists were caused by lead poisoning.  In 1786 Ben Franklin wrote about lead toxicity and work related illnesses caused by lead poisoning. 

The most common sources of lead exposure are right in the home through:

  • Lead dust 
  • Lead based paint 
  • Contaminated water from pipes that have lead based solder 
  • Soil 
Other sources of lead that children and adults may be exposed to include:
  • Lead solder in imported canned foods 
  • Job sites 
  • Home remedies (Alarcon, Alkohl, Azarcon, Bala Goli, Coral, Ghasard, Greta, Kandu, Liga, Pay-loo-ah, Rueda and more) 
  • Paints used for traffic markings, bridges, steel structures and boats 
  • Factories and industry (Smelters, battery plants, foundries, incinerators) 
  • Imported glazed ceramic dishes and crystal 
  • Imported vinyl mini-blinds for windows 
  • Playground equipment with lead based paint 
  • Imported makeup (Kohl, Surma) 
  • Chemicals like diesel fuel 
  • Hobbies (stained glass work, lead sinkers in fishing) 
  • Old or worn bathtubs 
  • Old batteries 

2.  Exposure to dangerous levels of lead can leave a child with lifelong learning disabilities as well as behavioral problems and physical problems. 

Children exposed to even small amounts of lead can have serious mental and physical developmental problems.  Low levels of lead poisoning can cause hyperactivity, reading disabilities, lowered IQ and aggressive behavior. Higher levels of lead poisoning can result in mental retardation, convulsions and coma. Children that have high blood lead levels often need hospitalization and expensive medical treatment.

Scientific studies have shown a clear link between lead poisoning and aggressive or violent behavior in teenagers or young adults who were poisoned as children. Children poisoned by lead often find it difficult to learn and are more likely to drop out of school.

Lead poisoning causes damage to the brain and nervous system. This can result in:

  • Learning disabilities 
  • Violent behavior 
  • Lowered IQ 
  • Juvenile delinquency 
  • Seizures 
  • Slowed growth 
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD) 
  • Mental retardation 
  • Severe behavioral problems 
  • Headaches 
  • Hyperactivity 

  • Hearing loss 
Although children and pregnant women are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning, adults are also vulnerable. At the highest risk are adults who work around lead in their jobs or hobbies.

In general, adults poisoned by lead may suffer from:

  • High blood pressure 
  • Memory and concentration problems 
  • Sterility/impotence in males 
  • Wrist drop 
  • Nervous system disorders 
  • Muscle and joint pain 
  • Headaches 
  • Irritability 
Also, in pregnant women, lead poisoning increases the risk of:
  • Miscarriages 
  • Low birth weight babies 
  • Stillbirths 

  • Underdeveloped babies 
Click here to find out what you can do to help keep your child's lead levels low.

3.  Usually, there are no outward symptoms when a child is poisoned.

Children who are exposed to dangerous levels of lead often appear perfectly healthy, but the lead in his or her little body is preventing the normal brain development that is critical to their future ability to learn and develop socially and psychologically.  Exposure in kids under age six is most critical since this is when most brain development occurs. 

Although you might not be able to tell that your child is being poisoned, the damages caused by lead poisoning are irreversible and permanent. It can take years of low level lead poisoning before there are any noticeable symptoms, long after the damage has been done. If there are any symptoms at all, they are often very vague - your child may have a headache or a stomachache, he or she may seem very sleepy or a little hyperactive.  However, most of the time, there are no symptoms at all. 

A blood lead test is the ONLY way to know if your child has been exposed to lead.  All children are supposed to receive this test at age 1 and again at age 2 as part of their well-baby care.  The test is inexpensive and covered by nearly all insurance plans, including Medicaid. 
The next time you visit your pediatrician, ask if your child has been lead tested.  If the doctor says no, ask him or her to do the test.  If they think its not necessary, tell them that you think it is necessary and demand that it be done.  Even if your child received one test long ago, if you currently live in a home that has old painted windows and doors, you should ask your doctor to check your child's lead levels again now.

If you are uninsured, the Chautauqua County Health Department can provide a lead test for your child.  Please call the Health Department at 753-4491, 363-4491 or 661-7491.

4.  The most common source of exposure to lead is through deteriorating lead-based paint and varnish in a child's own home.

The most common source of lead poisoning today is through exposure to deteriorating lead-based paint and varnish in older housing.  Lead was put into paint and varnish because it was resistant to wear and to moisture.  One square inch of lead based paint contains enough lead to poison 500 children. 

Many people think that they do not have lead in their home because the woodwork is natural, but it is important to know that lead was used in varnish as well as paint.  Many people also think that children are safe because they do not have paint chips in their homes.  It is even more important to know that most children today are exposed to lead through dust particles that are so small they cannot be seen with the naked eye.  Intact lead based paint poses no health threat, but when friction surfaces like doors and windows that contain lead based paint rub against themselves, dangerous lead dust is formed. 

Every time an old, painted or varnished window or door is opened and closed or a floor is walked across, tiny particles of dust are put into the environment.  These dust particles get onto children’s hands as they play and onto their toys, bottles, and pacifiers as they settle from the air.  Small children put everything they encounter, including their hands, into their mouths and thus ingest these tiny particles of lead dust.  Ongoing exposure to these tiny amounts of lead through normal hand to mouth activity is the most common way children are poisoned. An amount of lead the size of three grains of sugar is enough to poison a child if it is ingested daily.

It is estimated that over 80% of pre-1940 housing contains lead-based paint or varnish.  In Chautauqua County, the vast majority of our housing is pre-1940, so most of it contains lead-based paint.  Lead-based paint was not banned until 1978, so any house built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint.  Housing built before 1940 almost certainly does. 

5.  For a child who has been poisoned, there is no cure for the developmental and physical problems that the poison may have caused – special education and intervention to minimize the impact of the damage is the only effective treatment.

A poisoned child can undergo an expensive and painful medical treatment called chelation to try to remove as much as possible of the lead from his or her blood if it is discovered that they are poisoned.  However, chelation cannot reverse the damage that has already been done.  Also, since the body recognizes lead as calcium, it will store as much as it can into the body's long bones for later use.  Therefore, when a child undergoes chelation, the body will often respond by releasing some of the lead that it has stored in the bones. 

Since chelation can only remove the lead from the blood and not reverse the damage that the lead poisoning has already done, the damages caused by lead poisoning are irreversible and permanent. 
The only cure is prevention, and lead poisoning is completely preventable.

What is being done about lead-based paint?

In 1992, the federal government began enacting legislation to try to address lead-based paint in America’s housing and reduce the incidence of lead poisoning in our children.  Through the 1990’s legislation has been passed requiring people who are selling or renting pre-1978 housing to disclose any known or possibly existing lead-based paint in their housing and requiring contractors doing renovation in this housing to do the same.  Any housing that is receiving federal assistance through a mortgage, a rent voucher, or a grant for repairs must be made lead-safe before federal funds are made available.  Training is available to contractors so that they can learn to work safely around lead-based paint.

Addressing lead-based paint hazards does not require a major undertaking.  The old “abatement” model, where every inch of lead-based paint had to be removed, is no longer used extensively.  Today, the most common approach is to address areas that are the most likely sources of hazards.  These are surfaces that are subject to ongoing friction and impact such as doors, windows, floors, and stairs.  Replacement windows, paint stabilization to prevent further deterioration, and specialized clean-up after the work is the most common approach to making a property lead-safe.  Where abatement is necessary, specially trained and certified contractors are available to do the work.

Click here for more information on lead-safe home maintenance and repair.

Click here for more information on lead disclosure regulations and lead-safe maintenance for landlords and property owners


In Chautauqua County, the CHRIC and the Health Department are partnering to implement a HUD-funded Lead Hazard Control grant called Lead Safe County.  The program offers:

  • grants to landlords to address lead-based paint hazards in rental properties
  • training for contractors to learn to work safely with old lead-based paint 
  • training for landlords and homeowners who work in their own properties to learn to work safely with old lead-based paint
  • educational information for parents to make their homes as lead-safe as they can and to learn more about the dangers of lead poisoning and how to prevent it
  • training in lead-safe cleaning techniques that can teach you how to properly clean up any existing lead dust in your home
  • educational information free in the mail to homeowners, landlords, parents and others
For more information about assistance and programs available through Lead Safe County, call CHRIC at 753-4650 (Jamestown toll-free: 661-7650; Dunkirk toll-free: 363-4650). 

If you are uninsured and your child need a lead-tested, please call the 
Chautauqua County Health Department at 753-4491, 363-4491 or 661-7491.

Some other useful links for more information are:

Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning

American Lead Poisoning Help Association (ALPHA)

The National Center for Lead Safe Housing

The US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Center for Disease Control (CDC)


CHRIC is a private, not-for-profit agency 
overseen by a Board of Directors made up of community representatives.
We are not a government agency.
  CHRIC strives to enforce and advance Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity 
in all of its programs and services