Families & Caregivers
There are simple steps you can take to protect your children from lead exposure. While lead from paint, dust, and soil in and around your home can be dangerous, you can minimize the risk of lead hazards. Help is available from community organizations, health professionals, and local government. Learn about assistance from the City of Buffalo here and from the Erie County Department of Health here.
Lead-Based Paint in Homes Built Before 1978
The most common cause of lead poisoning in children under age 6 is lead-based paint still present in tens of thousands of homes in Buffalo and Erie County, sometimes under layers of newer paint. If the paint is intact and in good shape, the lead-based paint is usually not a problem. If the paint is peeling, chipping, cracking, damaged, or damp, it is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
Lead-based paint may be a hazard on surfaces that children can chew, have lead dust, or undergo significant wear-and-tear, such as:
- Windows and windowsills
- Doors and door frames
- Stairs, railings, banisters, and porches
Simple ways to keep your home and your family lead safe
- Wash hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often
- Use wet paper towels to clean up lead dust
- Clean around windows, play areas, and floors
- Always take off shoes before going into the house
- Watch your child’s diet—foods high in calcium and iron help keep lead from being absorbed by a child’s body
- To learn more, call 311 for a lead education visit and cleaning supplies
Painting and repair for lead safety
- Lead paint is safe as long as it is intact and covered by new paint, siding, or other coverings
- When painting for lead safety, NEVER dry scrape; scraping sends lead dust and chips throughout your home which is very hazardous
- ALWAYS wet scrape and use lead safe work practices: Learn More Homeowners can participate in free training provided by the Erie County Department of Health Department—class schedule is online and you can schedule a training session by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a training session.
- If you hire a contractor, hire a professional certified in Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP)—find a certified contractor here
- To get your home inspected for lead hazards, call 311 or visit https://bit.ly/cobprii (Residence within City of Buffalo), or email email@example.com (Erie County residents outside of Buffalo)
- Visit the Resources section to find out if you qualify for grants or loans for repair work.
Know your rights as a renter
- You should receive a notice from your landlord that tells you if your rental unit contains lead hazards. It looks like this. If you have not received one, you should ask for it.
- If you rent your home and you suspect you have lead hazards, talk to your landlord about fixing surfaces with deteriorated, peeling or chipping paint. The landlord is required to remediate lead paint hazards.
- You can also have your rental inspected. If you live in Buffalo you can call 311 to request an inspection. The city is also phasing in a requirement that rental singles and doubles be inspected every three years. If lead paint violations are present, the inspectors will notify the landlord that they must be fixed.
- An inspection is a simple process, and you and/or your landlord must be present. Learn more.
If you call for an inspection, your landlord cannot legally retaliate toward you. Learn more about your rights as a tenant.
Lead in Drinking Water and Soil
Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that dissolves or wears away pipes and fixtures. In homes with lead pipes that connect the home to the water main, also known as lead service lines, these pipes are typically the most significant source of lead in the water. Lead pipes are more likely to be found in homes built before 1986.
You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water. The best way to know you are at risk of exposure to lead in drinking water is to identify the potential sources of lead in your service line and household plumbing.
Ensure your drinking water is lead safe
- Have your water tested. Contact your water utility to have your water tested and to learn more about the lead levels in your drinking water. You can call Buffalo Water at (716) 847-1065 to request a lead test which is available to all residents. If a high lead level is found, you will be provided with a water filter.
- Run your water. Before drinking, flush your home’s pipes by running the tap, taking a shower, doing laundry, or doing a load of dishes. In many older homes, where the presence of lead in service lines and plumbing fixtures is presumed, Buffalo Water encourages customers to allow tap water to flow for 30 seconds to 2 minutes (or until you feel a change in temperature) before using, to minimize any contaminant exposure.
- Learn about construction in your neighborhood. Be aware of any construction or maintenance work that could disturb your lead service line. Construction may cause more lead to be released from a lead service line.
- Use cold water. Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Remember, boiling water does not remove lead from water.
- Clean your aerator. Regularly clean your faucet’s screen (also known as an aerator). Sediment, debris, and lead particles can collect in your aerator. If lead particles are caught in the aerator, lead can get into your water.
- Use your filter properly. If you use a filter, make sure you use a filter certified to remove lead. Read the directions to learn how to properly install and use your cartridge and when to replace it. Using the cartridge after it has expired can make it less effective at removing lead. Do not run hot water through the filter.
- Learn more.
Ensure Your Soil is Lead Safe
Lead hazards can also be found in soil. Exposure can occur when children play in contaminated soil or when residents garden in the ground. Some properties may have been in or are currently near industrial sites which are contaminated by toxins. If you would like to have your soil tested, contact Joe Kurtz at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jackie James at Citizen Science Community Resources at email@example.com.
Get Your Child Screened For Blood Lead Levels and Potential Developmental Delays
While parents and healthcare providers can take steps to protect children from lead exposure, the only way to know if a child has an elevated blood lead level is to do a blood lead test. Most children with lead poisoning do not show any immediate signs or symptoms and will look and act healthy, even though they can develop serious problems (such as learning disabilities) in the future.
If you are a parent or caregiver, talk to your doctor about getting your child’s blood lead level checked. All children should have their blood tested at age 1 and 2 years old. The longer lead remains in the body of a young child, the higher the risk of permanent damage. Your doctor will explain the results to you.
Free developmental screening resources
You may also take advantage of free developmental screenings for children birth to age 5 with https://hmgwny.org/. While every child develops at a different rate—even siblings within the same family—there are important milestones to look out for. Developmental milestones are skills that a child is expected to gain by a certain age. The sooner your family can recognize a potential delay, the sooner your child can get the resources and help they need to keep their development on track. For more information on free developmental screenings and resources, call or text Help Me Grow WNY at 716-760-GROW.
Help For Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels
If your child does test positive for lead poisoning, your Health Care Provider will explain what your child’s lead level means. Your child will automatically be referred to the Erie County Department of Health and be assigned a nurse case manager to help guide you through the process of bringing your child’s lead level down.
There are programs to identify any developmental delays they may be experiencing and to provide support to improve learning.
- LEAD716 provides critically needed early intervention and family support to preschool children with elevated blood lead levels. They may provide free tutoring for preschoolers and free family support to minimize the effects of lead on learning and behavior. Contact Lead716 at Lead716.org or call (716) 901-8701.
- Lead it Go is a free program offered by the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) and Beyond Boundaries to help address the risk of harmful developmental delays that can be caused by lead poisoning. The ECDOH can refer children under three with elevated blood lead levels of 5 or more micrograms per deciliter. Families can participate in the programming for up to a year. They will receive monthly visits from occupational therapists, special educators, and nutritionists.
Embed youtube video for more information. The video provided contact information.
https://www.beyondboundariestherapy.org/lead-it-go To sign up, call (877) 246-2396 or text (716) 861-7741.
- Buffalo Speech and Hearing Center (BHSC) provides a variety of services for clients from birth to elder years in a variety of programs and settings. Services for preschool education and early intervention include Special Education, Oral Deaf Education, Speech-language Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Music Therapy, Social Work Services, Audiology Services, Psychological Services and Behavioral Intervention, Family Therapy and Parent Support, and Play Therapy. To learn more, call (716) 885-8318 or go to https://askbhsc.org/.
Marixsa, Community Health Worker
“Get Ahead of Lead by learning about resources to help your family prevent childhood lead poisoning.”