St. Joseph County residents encouraged to take these steps to prevent lead exposure, poisoning

October 22-28 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and Branch Hillsdale St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ CHA) encourages residents to be informed, and to get their home and child(ren) tested. Lead exposure and poisoning is preventable.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that has been used in products such as batteries, cosmetics, construction materials, plumbing pipes and fixtures, paint, and gasoline. In the 1970s and 1980s the federal government began banning lead in products, but lead is still found in homes today. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services MiTracking Data Portal, approximately 75% of the homes in Branch, Hillsdale, and St. Joseph counties were built prior to 1980, increasing the likelihood of the presence of lead. Lead in the home can be found in paint, dust, drinking water, soil, certain types of work places, hobbies, household items, and imported goods.

Exposure to lead is dangerous for adults and children, especially children under age six. Lead exposure, in children, can cause behavioral issues, can affect hearing, delay development, and decrease cognitive performance. A blood lead level of 3.5 micrograms/deciliter is considered “elevated” and a cause for concern. Women who are pregnant, children at 12 months, and children at 24 months should be screened.

Here are five things you can do to prevent lead poisoning:

1. Find the lead in your home. Most children get lead poisoning from homes with lead-based paint on walls, window sills, flooring, and imported toys. Adults who work with lead-based products at their job or in their hobbies, are also at risk. The Michigan Lead Safe Home Program (LSHP) may be an option to consider if you currently rent or own your home, and if you have a child under the age of six or a pregnant person living in the home. 

2. Know your plumbing. Find out about the water service line to your home and the fixtures within it.

3. Clean up lead dust. You cannot see lead dust but it gets on children’s bedding, clothing, hands, and toys. Wash clothing and bedding frequently. Children’s hand washing should be supervised after play, before meals, and at bedtime. Toys should be washed often with soap and water.

4. Feed your child healthy foods. Foods with calcium, iron, and vitamin C can help keep lead out of the body. Calcium can be found in milk, yogurt, cheese and green leafy vegetables. Iron is in lean red meats, beans, peanut butter and cereal. Vitamin C is in oranges, green and red peppers, and juice.

5. Get your child tested. Testing can be done as part of a child’s annual wellness check. Talk to your provider if you have concerns about your child’s health or development.

If your child has been diagnosed with elevated blood lead levels or you have concerns about lead in your home, contact your local health department office for additional information and resources. Branch Hillsdale St. Joseph Community Health Agency has a registered nurse case manager to assist families with support, education, and healthcare navigation. Additional information and resources about lead poisoning and lead abatement can be found at