At Best Starts, we want babies and young children to grow up happy, healthy, and strong. We know that exposure to even a small amount of lead can cause serious health problems for children such as damage to the brain and slowed growth. Our Lead and Toxics strategy partners with community-based organizations to engage with community and identify sources of lead in the home, provide education on the dangers of lead in products and lead poisoning prevention, and improve access to developmental services for children exposed to lead. Review our Lead and Toxics strategy one-pager to learn more. and visit the Lead and Toxics webpage for resources.
Product Testing Events
In 2022, Best Starts Lead and Toxics community partners held 19 Product Testing Events in community spaces, such as farmers markets, health fairs, and parenting classes, to test household items for lead.
After holding Product Testing Events, our community partner Immigrant Women’s Community Center shared, “The testing events provided important information related to the health of our community, and they also provided an important function. Many of the families who attended were newly arrived refugees, which is an incredibly isolating experience. To allow a space for people to share a meal, to connect over common culture and language is an invaluable service.”
The 19 Product Testing Events provided resources to families who speak 17 different languages, living in 59 different zip codes across King County. 326 community members brought household items to be tested for lead. Of the 560 items tested for lead, 61 items were found to contain concerning levels of lead.
Another community partner, Somali Health Board shared, “There was a mother who brought her pots to the event. The pots tested positive for lead. The mother was upset and concerned since she had been cooking for her family for over five years with the products. She mentioned she had a child who was sick and may have a lead poison. We instructed her to connect with her provider to get her children tested for lead. The mother said, ‘if it was not for [Somali Health Board], I would have never find out.’ We are grateful for the opportunity to prevent further lead harm, connect this family with screening services, and provide lead education.”
Key Takeaways for Parents, Caregivers, and Families
- Know your risks for lead exposure. Consumer products sold online and in stores in King County have been found to contain lead. Harm caused by lead can be permanent, which is why it is important to remove lead from our products and our homes.
- Get children six and under tested for lead exposure. All Medicaid-eligible children are required to receive a blood lead test at 12 and 24 months old. All other children should be screened by their pediatric provider for lead risks at 12 and 24 months of age. Harm caused by lead can cause serious health problems for children and be permanent.
- Keep keys away from children. Of the 15 keys tested for lead at the events, 14 keys were found to contain concerning levels of lead.
- Traditional eyeliners like Kohl, Kajal, and Surma, have very high levels of lead. These items tested at the events had the highest levels of lead detected. Other cosmetics, including foundation and eyeshadow purchased in King County, were found to contain concerning levels of lead.
- Stainless steel is a safer alternative to aluminum and glass is a safer alternative for ceramics. Dishware and cookware tested at the events were found to contain concerning levels of lead.
“By educating our community and seeking stories, we found one person… who was diagnosed with lead poisoning as a child… [and] found it difficult to read or… concentrate on any subject. However, once her condition was diagnosed, the levels of lead in her blood decreased and her whole life changed. She regained her former abilities and happy, outgoing disposition. We want to tell more people about her story, as a way to encourage parents to test their children [for lead exposure].”– Cultivate South Park
Additional Resources and Ways to Learn More
- Resources and infographics from Public Health – Seattle & King County Lead and Toxics Program [available in multiple languages]
- Somali Health Board’s Lead Hub
- Video featuring Teniel Sabin Consulting’s Product Testing Event [Spanish]
- Teniel Sabin Consulting’s Educational Materials on Lead [Spanish]
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lead in Products
- Environmental Protection Agency: Resources on lead in cultural products [available in multiple languages]