Fight Childhood Lead Poisoning with Nutrition

August 31, 2017


by Amy Winslow, CEO, Magellan Diagnostics

Lead is a toxic metal that when ingested can have devastating neurological and physiological effects, particularly in the developing bodies of young children. The water crisis in Flint, MI, and the many other revelations of potential lead exposure across the country, has taught us that lead poisoning is not a thing of the past – and that lead can be anywhere.

The US has made great strides in reducing the number of lead poisoning cases, yet over half a million US children still have elevated blood lead levels. There is no safe level of lead, and symptoms of lead poisoning are vague and non-specific, often presenting as everyday childhood ailments.

The effects of high levels of lead exposure are permanent and irreversible. Young children exposed to lead can suffer profound physical and neuro-physiological disabilities that last a lifetime. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems such as decreased bone and muscle growth, anemia, poor muscle coordination, damage to the nervous system, kidneys, as well as hearing, speech and language problems. According to a study by the National Center for Healthy Housing, childhood lead exposure results in negative educational outcomes that serve to widen the achievement gap.

There are many steps a parent can take to protect their children from lead exposure, but diet is often overlooked. In fact, almost 90% of respondents of the Chicago Lead Knowledge Test did not know that a diet with a good amount of iron and calcium can help lessen the impact of lead exposure.

Lead in the body is distributed to, and absorbed by, the brain, liver, kidneys and bones. Studies show that a healthy, low-fat diet rich in iron, Vitamin C and calcium reduces the body’s ability to absorb lead. Lead binds to these critical nutrients and is eliminated rather than absorbed by the body’s organs and bones. Eating regularly is also important as empty stomachs increase the opportunity for lead absorption.

Protect your child’s health, and IQ, with a diet rich in these nutrients.


Iron deficiency increases absorption of lead from the stomach and intestines. Good sources of iron are:

· Iron-fortified cereals
· Green leafy vegetables
· Pureed meats
· Lean red meats
· Tuna, salmon, fish
· Raisins, dates, and prunes
· Dried beans and peas
· Skinless poultry
· Nuts or sunflower seeds

Vitamin C

Vitamin C and iron rich foods work together to reduce lead absorption. Good sources of Vitamin C include:

· Oranges and tangerines
· Grapefruit
· Limes and lemons
· Strawberries
· Cantaloupe
· Kiwi
· Potatoes and sweet potatoes
· Tomatoes
· Broccoli
· Bell peppers


Calcium reduces lead absorption and also helps to build strong bones and teeth. Foods that are good sources of calcium are:

· Milk and milk products
· Cheese and yogurt
· Green leafy vegetables
· Calcium-enriched orange juice
· Tofu
· Salmon
· Peanuts

For snack and recipe ideas, see the EPA’s “Fight Lead Poisoning with a Healthy Diet.”

A healthy diet is one way to mitigate effects of lead exposure, but the priority is to remove the child from the source of lead. A blood test is the only way to know if a child is being exposed to lead, so the recommendation is that children who are tested should have a lead test at age 1 and again at age 2 (2 tests by 2 years old).

Just remember “2 by 2”.

EPA Fact Sheet: Nutrients That Reduce Lead Poisoning

Fight Lead with Good Nutrition

How to Fight Lead Exposure with Nutrition

Nutrition Studies

Original Source:

Back to Category Next Post

Blood Lead Testing In-House

See All Products