In 1991, the U.S. government declared lead to be the greatest environmental threat to children [source: EPA]. Not a big surprise considering the nasty effects that lead exposure can have on adults and children alike. Even low concentrations can cause problems with your central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys [source: EPA]. It's particularly threatening for fetuses, babies and children, because of potential developmental disorders.
The hubbub surrounding lead paint isn't a new one, but still warrants discussion since many houses built before 1978 contain lead paint [source: EPA]. The intact paint on a surface won't kill you. Only once the paint begins to peel away will it release the harmful lead particles that you can inhale. For that reason, do not try to remove lead-based paint by sanding, scraping or burning it because that will liberate the toxic metal. Leave it to a professional instead.
This is the same type of paint that set off the widespread recalls of toys from China in late 2007. Retailers feared that children could ingest the paint, possibly contributing to brain damage [source: Lipton and Barboza]. Regulated commercial paints and painted products in the United States today do not contain lead.