Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.9 Prevention and Management of Toxic Substances Testing for Lead

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 08/15/2014.

In all centers, both exterior and interior surfaces covered by paint with lead levels of 0.009% or 90 ppm and above, and accessible to children, should be removed by a safe chemical or physical means or made inaccessible to children, regardless of the condition of the surface.

In large and small family child care homes, flaking or deteriorating lead-based paint on any surface accessible to children should be removed or abated according to health department regulations. Where lead paint is removed, the surface should be refinished with lead-free paint or nontoxic material. Sanding, scraping, or burning of lead-based paint surfaces should be prohibited. Children and pregnant women should not be present during lead renovation or lead abatement activities.

Any surface and the grounds around and under surfaces that children use at a child care facility, including dirt and grassy areas should be tested for excessive lead in a location designated by the health department. Caregivers/teachers should check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Website,, for warnings of potential lead exposure to children and recalls of play equipment, toys, jewelry used for play, imported vinyl mini-blinds and food contact products. If they are found to have toxic levels, corrective action should be taken to prevent exposure to lead at the facility. Only nontoxic paints should be used.

Ingestion of lead paint can result in high levels of lead in the blood, which affects the central nervous system and can cause mental retardation (2,3). Paint and other surface coating materials should comply with lead content provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 16, Part 1303.

Some imported vinyl mini-blinds contain lead and can deteriorate from exposure to sunlight and heat and form lead dust on the surface of the blinds (1). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers with children six years of age and younger remove old vinyl mini-blinds and replace them with new mini-blinds made without added lead or with alternative window coverings. See Comments for resources.

Lead is a neurotoxin. Even at low levels of exposure, lead can cause reduction in a child’s IQ and attention span, and result in reading and learning disabilities, hyperactivity, and behavioral difficulties. Lead poisoning has no “cure.” These effects cannot be reversed once the damage is done, affecting a child’s ability to learn, succeed in school, and function later in life. Other symptoms of low levels of lead in a child’s body are subtle behavioral changes, irritability, low appetite, weight loss, sleep disturbances, and shortened attention span (2,3).

House paints made before 1978 may contain lead. If there is any doubt about the presence of lead in existing paint, contact the health department for information regarding testing. Lead is used to make paint last longer. The amount of lead in paint was reduced in 1950 and further reduced again in 1978. Houses built before 1950 likely contain lead paint, and houses built after 1950 have less lead in the paint. House paint sold today has little or no lead. Lead is prohibited in contemporary paints. Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning in children (3).

In buildings where lead has been removed from the surfaces, lead paint may have contaminated surrounding soil. Therefore, the soil in play areas around these buildings should be tested. Outdoor play equipment was commonly painted with lead-based paints, too. These structures and the soil around them should be checked if they are not known to be lead-free.

The danger from lead paint depends on:

  1. Amount of lead in the painted surface;
  2. Condition of the paint;
  3. Amount of lead (from paint, chips, soil, or dust) that gets into the child.

Children nine months through five years of age are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning. Most children with lead poisoning do not look or act sick. A blood lead test is the only way to know if children are being lead poisoned. Children should have a test result below 5 ug/dL (2,4).

A booklet called Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CPSC, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The EPA also has a pamphlet called Finding a Qualified Lead Professional for Your Home, which provides information on how to identify qualified lead inspectors and risk assessors. Before starting a renovation project on a facility built before 1978, the contractor or property owner is required to have parents/guardians sign a pre-renovation disclosure form, which indicates that the parents/guardians received Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools, available at The contractor must also make renovation information available to the parents/guardians of children under age six that attend child care centers or homes, and provide to owners and administrators of pre-1978 child care facilities to be renovated a copy of Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools (5).

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Testing for Lead and Copper Levels in Drinking Water Construction and Remodeling Product Recall Monitoring
  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 1996. CPSC finds lead poisoning hazard for young children in imported vinyl miniblinds.
  2. Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. 2012. Low level lead exposure harms children: A renewed call for primary prevention. Atlanta, GA: CDC.
  3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2010. The lead-safe certified guide to renovate right. Washington, DC: EPA.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2012. Announcement: Response to the advisory committee on childhood lead poisoning prevention report, low level lead exposure harms children: A renewed call for primary prevention. MMWR. Atlanta, GA: CDC.
  5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. Lead in paint, dust, and soil: Renovation, repair and painting (RRP).

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 08/15/2014.