Lead Education Initiative
The City of West Allis is committed to supporting the health and well being of our residents. As part of that commitment, we've created our Lead Education Initiative to inform residents about and prevent lead poisoning.
Explore the questions and resources below to get the facts on lead exposure in our community.
What is lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. Its widespread use has resulted in significant public health problems in many parts of the world.
What are the sources of lead poisoning?
Lead-based paints for homes, children's toys and household furniture have been banned in the United States since 1978. But lead-based paint is still on walls and woodwork in homes built prior to 1978. Most lead poisoning in children is caused by lead dust from deteriorating lead-based paint.
The West Allis Health Department can conduct walk-throughs to assess lead risks in your home.
Many people believe that water contains lead, but lead plumbing equipment actually leeches lead into water supplies. West Allis' water is purchased from the Milwaukee Water Works, and is frequently tested. Lead is not found in the surface water collected from Lake Michigan for drinking.
Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. If your property was built and the water main installed before 1953, your water service lateral was originally installed using lead piping materials. It is possible that some of the property's internal plumbing fixtures also contain lead. Even copper piping may have lead solder joints.
Learn more about how household plumbing can create lead hazards, and what you can do to prevent it.
Lead may also sometimes be found in:
- Household dust from lead paint chips
- Imported or antique toys
- Imported candy or cosmetics
- Occupational exposure
- Pottery and ceramic glazes
Is lead poisoning happening in our community?
Lead poisoning can happen in any community. According to the 2016 Report on Childhood Lead Poisoning in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 3.7% of the 1,475 young children who were tested in West Allis had elevated lead levels. By comparison, 5.01% of children tested statewide showed elevated lead levels in their blood.
What is West Allis doing to prevent lead poisoning?
The West Allis Health Department has been very proactive in taking measures to prevent lead poisoning through education and early identification, and active intervention when lead hazards are discovered. These interventions have decreased the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels in our community.
Milwaukee Water Works has been adding phosphate to our water for decades to form a protective coating which has been successful in dramatically reducing the lead leaching from the service pipes or home plumbing into the water.
The City of West Allis has also replaced some water service lines that contained lead. We have also launched our Lead Education Initiative to educate residents about the risks of lead.
Who is at risk?
The risk of lead poisoning for adults is minimal. Children under the age of 6 are most at risk. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths.
What are the negative impacts of lead exposure in children?
Childhood lead poisoning can lead to health effects later in life, such as:
- ADHD, delayed learning, and lower IQ (which will impact school performance),
- Kidney problems
- Reproductive problems
What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to lead?
Talk to your healthcare provider about lead exposure. S/he can perform a simple blood test to assess your child's exposure to lead.
How can I reduce my family's risk of lead exposure?
- Use a disposable wet cloth to wipe away chips or dust from window ledges, floors and toys.
- Check the soil immediately outside the house for peeling paint.
- Wash hands before eating.
- Eat foods high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron.
- Use a filter certified to remove lead. If you live in a home with a lead service line or plumbing, use a filter certified to remove lead.
- Run your water. If your water has not been used for several hours, run the cold water tap for at least three minutes - until it is noticeably colder - before using tap water for cooking and drinking. This flushes out water that has been sitting in your pipes and brings in fresh water directly from the water main, which is not made of lead.
- Use water from the cold water tap. Drink and cook only with water from the cold water tap. Hot water can dissolve lead more quickly. Hot water from your tap is safe for washing hands and dishes.
- Clean your aerators. Regularly remove the screen and aerator from your faucets, rinse out any particles, and re-attach. The particles may contain lead. Do this once a month, or more frequently if there is water utility construction work nearby.