Lead and Our Environment

Attention Contractors 

Childhood lead poisoning is a major problem in Iowa because much of the housing contains lead-based paint. About 60% of the homes in Iowa were built before 1960. Many children are poisoned when lead-based paint is disturbed in painting and remodeling projects. 

Childhood lead poisoning is a disease that occurs when children have too much lead in their bodies. This can be prevented! Since 1999, Iowa law has required contractors to give property owners and occupants a notification and approved lead hazard information pamphlet before starting renovation, remodeling, or repainting in homes built before 1978.

In April 2010, regulations impacting renovation work in pre-1978 residential housing (target housing) and child occupied facilities became effective nation-wide. These rules require at least one certified lead-safe renovator per renovation, and the use of specific lead-safe work practices. In Iowa, the Iowa Department of Public Health has the authority to implement this program. 

In January of 2013, the definition of "minor repair and maintenance activities" was updated in 641 - Chapter 70 of the Iowa Administrative Code. This new definition expands the minimum areas in some cases, and more closely matches EPA's minimum areas.

Lead Information for Families

Contact the Bureau of Lead Poisoning Prevention 1-800-972-2026, for more information. 

Lead and the Effects on Children

Lead is a highly toxic substance that can produce adverse effects on nearly all organ systems in the body. There are many ways in which humans are exposed to lead: through deteriorating paint, household dust, bare soil, drinking water, air, food, hair dyes and other cosmetics (NSC 2009). Lead-based paint, which was banned from residential use in 1978, is the main source of lead poisoning in Iowa.

Both children and adults can become lead poisoned but childhood lead poisoning is more common. Childhood lead poisoning has significant effects on the health of children and on community health. It is especially harmful to the developing brains and nervous systems of children under the age of six years.

Most of Iowa's pre-1950 homes contain lead-based paint. Young children who live in pre-1950 homes become lead poisoned when they put paint chips or exterior soil in their mouths or when they get house dust and soil on their hands and put their hands in their mouths. In addition, adults who remodel or repaint these homes may be lead-poisoned if they disturb the lead-based paint.

At blood lead levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), children's intelligence, hearing, and growth are affected. Statewide, the prevalence of lead poisoning (children with confirmed elevated blood lead levels above 10 µg/dL) among children under the age of six years is between 1 and 2 percent.

Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. According to the CDC, the following tips can help prevent exposure to lead:

  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint. 
  • Pregnant women and children should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation.
  • Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources.
  • Regularly wash children’s hands and toys.
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components.
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil; if possible, provide them with sandboxes.
For more information about lead poisoning prevention, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health website at IDPH Lead Poisoning Prevention.

Learn more about lead testing for children.