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Childhood Lead

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What is Lead?

Lead (chemical symbol is Pb) is a naturally occurring metal. It has been spread by humans through its use in a wide variety of products found in homes and when it was used in gasoline in the past. In the workplace, lead is used in the manufacture of some types of batteries. Lead is also present in some paints, coatings and metals and can be released when heated (for example: welding, heat treating) or when mechanically removed (for example: sanded.)

SC Childhood Lead Testing Fact Sheet


"Today, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet an estimated 250,000 U.S. children have elevated blood-lead levels.” [From National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week]

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

What are some sources of lead in our environment?

Historically, organic lead was used in gasoline as an anti-knocking compound. When the EPA started requiring car manufacturers to reduce the amount of pollution that comes from a car, the car manufacturers started using catalytic converters. The lead in leaded gasoline resulted in contaminated exhaust and soil, therefore the use of leaded gasoline was phased out.

More of a concern today is the historical use of lead in paint. Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure. The addition of lead to paint helped the paint perform better and last longer and until it was regulated, it was very commonly used in homes. Lead-based paint is still used in some industrial applications.

Lead is also used in the manufacture of some vinyl mini-blinds. Homeowners should look for those which are labeled as "lead-safe" or "no lead added".

Lead in Homes

The year that a house was constructed can be a clue about whether or not the house contains lead-based paint. Houses built before 1950 are very likely to contain lead-based paint and the deterioration of this paint causes a problem. Those built between 1950 and 1978 are less likely to contain lead-based paint; and those built after 1978 are unlikely to contain lead-based paint. In 1978, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission banned lead-based paint from being used in residential construction. Approximately 24 million housing units have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust.

Lead is also used in the manufacture of some vinyl mini-blinds. Homeowners should look for those which are labeled as "lead-safe" or "no lead added".

How is someone exposed to lead?

Lead can get into your body by breathing it in or eating it. Children are exposed when they either chew on painted surfaces, like window sills or crib rails that have been painted with lead-based paint or when there is deteriorating lead-based paint and they crawl on lead-containing dust and then put their hands into their mouths or breathe in lead-containing dust. In most cases, adults are exposed to lead at work when they perform welding, renovation and remodeling activities, work in smelters, firing ranges, battery manufacture or disposal, and/or the repair/maintenance of water towers or bridges. Soil around your home can pick up lead from sources such as exterior paint and your drinking water can pick it up through plumbing.

Who is at risk?

Children are more sensitive than adults to the effects of lead. All children under the age of 6 years old are at risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands, toys, or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths. Children living at or below the poverty line who live in older housing are at greatest risk.

Most adults who are lead poisoned get exposed to lead at work. Occupations related to welding, renovation and remodeling activities, smelters, firing ranges, the manufacture and disposal of car batteries, and the maintenance and repair of bridges and water towers, are particularly at risk for lead exposure.

As a general rule, the more lead you have in your body, the more likely it is that you’ll have health problems. While it is true that other factors (nutrition, iron levels, and body size) can influence how lead affects a person, more research is needed to fully comprehend those health effects.

How can exposure to Lead affect me?

Lead affects the neurological system, especially in developing children. Exposure to lead during their developmental years has been shown to lower the IQ of children. Lead poisoning can cause comas, seizures, and death in some cases.

For adults, exposure to lead can increase blood pressure, cause fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability, and memory or concentration problems.

About Childhood Lead

Childhood Lead Resouces and Materials

Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead.  The goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. There are many ways parents can reduce a child's exposure to lead hazards in a child's environment. These hazards must be identified and controlled or removed safely.

What can be done to prevent exposure to lead at my residence?

It is important to determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child may spend a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare). In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise.

  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components. Because household dust is a major source of lead, wet-mop floors and wet-wipe horizontal surfaces every 2-3 weeks.

Pregnant women and children should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation nor should they participate in activities that disturb old paint or in cleaning up paint debris after work is completed.

  • Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources.
  • Clean and isolate all sources of lead.  Close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls.
  • Apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or to block children’s access to other sources of lead.
  • Regularly wash children’s hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil; if possible, provide them with sandboxes.
  • Plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips, if possible. Until the bare soil is covered move play areas away from bare soil and away from the sides of the house.

What can be done to prevent exposure to lead from non-residential paint sources?

  • Avoid using traditional home remedies and cosmetics that may contain lead;
  • Use containers, cookware, or tableware to store or cook foods and liquids that are lead free;
  • Avoid eating candies imported from Mexico;
  •  Check Lead Recalls lists and remove recalled toys and toy jewelry immediately from children
  • Use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and for making baby formula (Hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead. Most of the lead in household water usually comes from the plumbing in your house, not from the local water supply.);
  • When exposed to lead in the workplace, minimize or prevent taking lead-contaminated clothes home with you. Also, shower and change clothes after finishing a task that involves working with lead-based products such as stain glass work, bullet making, or using a firing range.

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Childhood Lead Maps

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Childhood Lead Data

SC Childhood Lead Testing Fact Sheet

Directions: In order to view data tables, you must click on the year of interest. Once the table is open for viewing, you can close the table by clicking on the year again.

Children in Poverty & Housing Age (2000 census) 2000

Children in Poverty & Housing Age
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Number of Children Under 5 in Poverty
Percent of Children Under 5 in Poverty
Number of Pre-1950 housing
Percent of Pre-1950 housing
Abbeville
308
17.9
2,077
17.8
Aiken
2,032
21.8
6,263
10.1
Allendale
354
46.8
810
17.7
Anderson
2,020
18.5
10,116
13.8
Bamberg
399
38.0
987
13.8
Barnwell
479
30.0
1,206
11.8
Beaufort
1,152
14.3
1,985
3.3
Berkeley
1,605
16.5
2,144
3.9
Calhoun
186
19.7
1,133
16.5
Charleston
4,888
24.6
20,231
14.3
Cherokee
603
16.1
3,260
14.6
Chester
543
24.5
3,128
21.8
Chesterfield
837
29.7
2,481
13.2
Clarendon
602
30.8
1,237
8.1
Colleton
775
29.6
1,889
10.4
Darlington
1,093
24.3
3,556
12.3
Dillon
884
40.6
1,941
15.3
Dorchester
777
12.1
2,236
6.0
Edgefield
308
21.5
1,321
14.3
Fairfield
436
29.0
1,514
14.6
Florence
1,961
24.5
4,976
9.6
Georgetown
830
24.2
2,232
7.9
Greenville
3,744
14.9
20,572
12.6
Greenwood
1,050
23.1
4,840
17.1
Hampton
425
30.1
1,199
14.0
Horry
2,042
18.7
5,093
4.2
Jasper
407
27.2
823
10.4
Kershaw
638
19.3
2,403
10.6
Lancaster
658
17.0
3,072
12.3
Laurens
1,110
24.6
4,752
15.7
Lee
322
25.1
1,049
13.7
Lexington
1,916
13.2
5,437
6.0
McCormick
114
30.2
580
13.0
Marion
874
37.4
1,988
13.1
Marlboro
623
32.3
1,954
16.4
Newberry
600
27.3
3,444
20.5
Oconee
639
16.1
3,530
10.9
Orangeburg
1,995
33.5
4,650
11.8
Pickens
951
14.1
5,249
11.4
Richland
3,916
19.8
14,069
10.8
Saluda
315
25.5
1,455
17.0
Spartanburg
2,557
15.2
16,168
15.1
Sumter
1,802
23.5
3,779
9.1
Union
376
21.0
3,097
23.2
Williamsburg
926
36.7
1,587
10.2
York
1,381
12.8
6,948
10.5
SC
52,453
36.4
194,461
6.9
Data Source: 2000 US Census

Number and Percent of Children Tested for Lead by Age Group 2010

Number and Percent of Children Tested for Lead by Age Group, 2010
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Number^ Tested, Age <36 months
Percent* Tested, Age <36 months
Number^ Tested, Age 36 - <72 months
Percent* Tested, Age 36 - <72 months
Abbeville 42 4.6 97 10.5
Aiken 352 5.8 268 4.4
Allendale 35 9.5 84 22.5
Anderson 128 1.8 545 7.5
Bamberg 32 5.7 173 30.8
Barnwell 80 8.9 145 15.8
Beaufort 483 7.3 469 7.4
Berkeley 184 2.3 415 5.3
Calhoun 41 7.5 152 28.1
Charleston 742 5.4 1,128 8.6
Cherokee 89 4.0 213 9.5
Chester 18 1.4 165 12.7
Chesterfield 80 4.5 147 8.1
Clarendon 163 13.2 614 49.5
Colleton 159 10.3 270 17.6
Darlington 289 11.1 252 9.5
Dillon 147 10.3 294 20.4
Dorchester 156 2.7 261 4.4
Edgefield 37 4.4 145 16.5
Fairfield 58 6.7 140 16.2
Florence 643 11.6 674 12.1
Georgetown 166 8.3 203 10.0
Greenville 1,504 8.0 2,342 12.7
Greenwood 300 10.6 413 15.0
Hampton 92 11.4 126 15.7
Horry 638 6.9 549 6.0
Jasper 130 11.7 133 12.2
Kershaw 106 4.3 177 7.2
Lancaster 33 1.1 138 4.5
Laurens 50 1.9 94 3.7
Lee 50 7.5 111 16.1
Lexington 1,006 9.6 1,072 10.2
McCormick 17 6.7 37 15.3
Marion 235 17.4 180 13.5
Marlboro 130 12.9 305 30.7
Newberry 148 10.2 211 14.6
Oconee 236 9.4 365 14.5
Orangeburg 200 5.4 1,493 41.4
Pickens 135 3.5 168 4.3
Richland 2,234 15.2 3,590 24.6
Saluda 83 10.1 130 16.4
Spartanburg 1,018 8.9 1,170 10.3
Sumter 647 13.6 912 19.6
Union 127 12.6 347 34.1
Williamsburg 170 13.8 402 31.8
York 135 1.4 272 2.9
SC**
13,568
7.5
21,674
12.0
^ Numbers are based on targeted screening results.
* Percent = (total number of children tested / total number of children from Census Count) x 100
** SC total includes tests with unknown county information.

Source: Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, S.C. DHEC; 2010 US Census


Number and Percent of Children Tested for Lead with Elevated Blood Lead Levels* (EBLL) by Age Group 2010

Number and Percent of Children Tested for Lead with Elevated Blood Lead Levels* (EBLL) by Age Group, 2010
Number^ with EBLL, Age <36 months
Percent1 with EBLL, Age <36 months
Number^ with EBLL, Age 36 - <72 months
Percent1 with EBLL, Age 36 - <72 months
Upstate 6 0.1 18 0.4
Midlands 7 0.2 11 0.2
Pee Dee 5 0.1 26 0.6
Low Country < 5 # 9 0.2
SC2 < 25 < 0.2 64 0.3
^ Numbers are based on targeted screening results.
1 Percent = (total number of children tested with EBLL / total number of children tested) x 100
2 SC total includes tests with unknown county information.
# Percent cannot be calculated.
Source: Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, S.C. DHEC; 2010 US Census

An Elevated Blood Lead Level (EBLL) is a blood lead level >= 10 µg/dL.


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track it map it use it create it   About Childhood Lead
For additional information, contact the SC EPHT program: epht@dhec.sc.gov
These web pages are supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 5U38EH000628-02 from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.