Frequently Asked Questions
Since 1991, the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department has served the community to eliminate environmental lead contamination, prevent childhood lead poisoning and improve health outcomes by addressing housing problems. The Department provides case management of lead poisoned children, community outreach and education, training, lead hazard reduction services, healthy homes interventions, and consultations. Using nationally funded grants, we work with certified contractors to address the lead hazards in our homes.
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. If blood lead levels are 45 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL) or greater, healthcare providers may recommend medication to help remove lead from the body. However, children are highly sensitive to lead and exposure at lower levels has been shown to cause harm.
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.
Poor children living in old houses in urban areas are at the highest risk for lead poisoning because they often live inside apartments or houses that are not well maintained. However, middle and upper-income children are not exempt from lead poisoning and are at significant risk of lead poisoning if unsafe renovation or remodeling projects are performed on old homes where they live.
Over the past 30 years, we have seen an increase in the number of children becoming lead poisoned from cultural sources instead of housing-based sources such as traditional medicine/remedies, foods or goods imported from overseas, and items used for cooking. For more information, please visit our Possible Sources of Lead page. For culturally-specific information in languages other than English, please visit one or more of our languages pages.
The only way to know if your child has been exposed to any lead hazards is to request a blood lead test from your child's doctor.
There are often no apparent symptoms when a child is exposed to lead. Because of this, a blood test is the best way to determine if a child has been exposed to lead. If your child may have been exposed to lead, talk to your healthcare provider about getting a blood lead test. Based on your child's blood lead test results, healthcare providers can recommend follow-up actions and care.
The best way to find out if there are lead hazards in your home is to hire a lead-certified inspector to test your home. Go to our Directory of Consultants to find one in the Bay Area.
Apply for a Free Lead Paint Repair Grant
- Our Lead Hazard Repair Funding approved applicants are provided with free lead testing, grant funding of up to $10,000 per unit for lead hazard repairs, free inspection for other healthy housing hazards that may be eligible for additional supplemental funds, and an assigned professional who will provide extensive project assistance, and project monitoring to help make your home or property lead-safe. This grant is available for owners of pre-1960 residential properties in Alameda County who qualify. Click here to learn more.
Clean the Home
- The immediate source of lead hazards is often dust. If you have peeling lead-based paint or contaminated bare soil, there will be a certain amount of lead in the household dust. The first thing to do to is to get rid of the dust by cleaning the house. This should include regularly wet-cleaning areas that may get overlooked, like the interior and exterior windowsills. Even if you don't have peeling paint, there is enough lead in the environment that any accumulation of dust may have some lead in it. Wash hard surfaces thoroughly with a good household detergent. For carpets, invest in a HEPA vacuum cleaner. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA is a special filter which traps very small particles of dust that would go through an ordinary filter.