Lead Poisoning Prevention


Lead Awareness baby

Protecting Chicago Children from Lead Exposure: The Checklist

What is Lead?

Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves, and blood. 

Click here for more details on lead and healthy homes

Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, and in extreme cases, death. Some symptoms of lead poisoning may include headaches, stomach aches, nausea, tiredness, and irritability. Children who are lead-poisoned may show no symptoms. 

Who We Are

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) works to detect and address exposures to lead hazards. Through strategic inspections and abatement, as well as public education campaigns and testing, CDPH is leading efforts to permanently eliminate lead exposure to children. As a result, the number of children with elevated lead levels has declined from one in four tested in the late 1990’s to less than one in 100 today.

Here are some facts about lead in Chicago and tips for parents and guardians to help stop children from coming into contact with lead.

  • Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program 

This program targets the elimination of lead poisoning among children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers using intervention methods such as lead testing, lead environmental inspection, and case management and lead remediation and abatement. 

  • Healthy Homes 

This HUD program seeks to prevent disease among children that stem from being exposed to various types of environmental hazards in the home, such as Lead, Mold, Allergens, and Asthma. 

What We Do

  • Case Management 
  • Environmental Inspection
  • Enforcement 
  • Healthy Homes (HUD)
  • Community Engagement

Case Management: Children with a confirmed elevated blood level of at least 5 micro/deciliter are referred to the case management unit. The public health nurse will do a social developmental assessment, meets with the family, provide nutritional counseling, coordinates with the lead inspector, makes referrals for additional services as needed.

Environmental Inspection: Licensed Lead Inspectors inspect interior/exterior of the residence of where a child has received a confirmation a positive lead blood test to determine if there are any lead hazards.

Enforcement: Properties that have been found to have lead hazards; the property owner must have the lead hazard removed by a lead certified contractor according to the City of Chicago ordinance.

Healthy Homes (HUD): The Chicago Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Program’s (LPPHHP) mission is to detect and address exposures to lead hazards. The LPPHHP assists low-income families who occupy pre-1978 privately-owned housing in the City of Chicago through the Lead-Based Paint Hazard and Reduction Grant

Community Engagement: Chicago Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Program’s (LPPHHP) provides education to families, communities and other organizations such as childcare providers about lead poisoning prevention and testing.

What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body as a result of swallowing, ingesting, or inhaling of lead dust, and/or lead based paint chips.

Sources of lead Hazard Exposure

  • Chipping paint from homes built before 1978. In 1978 the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-based paint.
  • Exposure to lead dust from certain job occupations such as battery manufacturers. 
  • Exposure to lead dust from hobbies such as target shooting, stained glasswork.
  • Non-paint sources: Herbal or home remedies, imported spices (e.g., turmeric powder), ceremonial makeup (e.g., Kohl), imported pottery, contaminated water lines.

Lead Testing Guidelines

Every child living in Chicago should be tested for lead through their healthcare provider's office.

Children should be tested at 12, 24, and 36 months of age. Children between 3 and 6 years of age may also need to be tested. Additionally, children may need to have proof of lead testing upon enrollment in daycare and kindergarten.

Contact Us

Hotline 312.747.LEAD (5323)

2133 W. Lexington St.

Chicago, IL 60612



Frequently Asked Questions



Prevention Tips (Prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed)


Cook County Assessor's Office (Find out if your home was built before 1978)

Medicaid testing

Recommendations for testing pregnant women

National Biomonitoring Program

Lead - Information for Workers

EPA - Learn about Lead

Cleveland Clinic - Lead poisoning symptoms, treatment, and prevention

Any questions about lead in water, visit www.chicagowaterquality.org. 

For more free resources call the CDPH Lead Hotline at 312.747.LEAD (5323) or search #LeadFreeChi on Facebook and Twitter

Supporting Information Facts

People We Serve:
Programs & Initiatives:

Additional Information


Read CDPH's Plan to Reduce Lead Poisoning in Chicago

Environmental Protection Agency - Fact Sheets

Gardening in Lead-Contaminated Soil

Protect Your Family from Lead at Your Home


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