Polk County Health Department

What is Lead?

What is Lead?
  • Lead is an invisible danger that hurts children. It can cause behavior problems, learning difficulties, and health problems. Children under the age of 6 and pregnant women are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning.

  • Lead paint and lead dust could be in your home causing harm but lead poisoning is preventable!
Where does Lead come from?
  • Friction/impact surfaces - opening and closing lead-painted windows and doors makes lead dust rub-off

  • Dishes and ceramics - some glazed pottery and pots may contain lead

  • Scraping or sanding lead paint creates a hazard - areas of chipping, peeling, and flaking lead paint are hazards

  • Lead in soil - Lead in soil, from fallen lead paint flakes or dust, around foundations of older homes can contaminate hands, shoes, clothing, pets and plants that come in contact with the soil. Soil near roads may have become contaminated from with lead from car fumes (until as late as 1986, lead was put in gasoline as an additive).

  • Lead at work - people who work with lead may bring lead dust home on their clothes

  • Lead in food - lead dust can get into soil where food is grown. Wash food before eating and cooking. However, some plants actually take up the lead out of the ground and washing will not remove it. Do not grow food crops near old buildings.

  • Imported candies or foods - especially from Mexico, containing chili or tamarind. Lead can be found in candy, wrappers, pottery containers, and in certain ethnic foods, such as chapulines (dried grasshoppers). See a database of toxic candies at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/candy.htm

  • Imported or handmade pottery and tableware with leaded glaze - The lead from the glaze gets into food and beverages when these ceramics are used for cooking or storing food.

  • Imported food in cans that are sealed with lead solder - Some countries other than the United States still allow lead solder in food cans. Cans that have lead solder have very wide seams.

  • Imported home remedies and imported cosmetics may contain lead - They often are imported from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, the Dominican Republic, or Mexico. The remedies are often bright yellow or orange in color.

    Examples include: Alarcon, Alkohl, Azarcon, Bali goli, Bint al zahab, Coral, Greta, Farouk, Ghasard, Kandu, Kohl, Liga, Litargirio, Lozeena, Pay-loo-ah, Sindoor, and Surma. There are many others.

Is Lead Poisoning still a problem in our area?
  • Yes, lead poisoning is still a problem in Polk County!

  • National Average = 1.60%
    Iowa Average = 7.00%
    Polk County Average = 4.80%

  • The rate of lead poisoning in Polk County is so high because 60% of its housing stock was built before 1978, the year lead paint was outlawed.
Why should Iowans be concerned about Lead Poisoning?
  • Nearly one out of every seven Iowa children tested has elevated levels of lead in their blood.

  • Iowa’s rate of lead poisoning is three times the national average.

  • Nearly 50% of the homes in Iowa, both in rural and urban areas, were built before 1960. Almost all of these pre-1960 homes contain some lead-based paint. Many also contain lead-based paint hazards that can harm children.

Contact Us

Phone: (515)-286-3798
Fax: (515)-286-2033
Toll free: 866-209-1300

Address: 1907, Carpenter Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314