(CNN) -Lead is a poisonous metal and is especially dangerous for babies and young children.
Lead poisoning can irreversibly damage a child's nervous system, brain and other organs.
"We know lead has a negative impact on brain development. It causes loss of IQ points, it can cause behavior problems, ADHD later in life. At really high levels it can actually cause the brain to swell and cause something called encephalitis," said Dr. Tara Williams, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Williams says children most often get lead poisoning from contact with lead-based paint, which was used in homes built before 1978. Lead can get into children's systems when they handle or eat peeling lead-based paint chips, flakes or dust. Children can also be exposed to lead when they breathe lead dust, chew on items covered in lead-based paint, like windowsills or furniture, and drink water from older lead pipes. Lead can also be found in soil contaminated with peeling lead-based paint, leaded crystal glassware, lead-glazed ceramics and some hobby items.
Lead poisoning is often preventable and it's important to pay attention to your environment. It's always a good idea to wash your hands frequently and wipe your feet when you come in from outdoors. Be sure your children aren't touching chipping or peeling paint. If you notice peeling or chipping paint you can call your local health department, or notify your landlord if you're renting.
When it comes to removing lead paint, Dr. Williams says it's best to let an expert handle it.
"Don't ever try to remove lead-based paint yourself. It should be done by a professional so that we make sure it is not releasing dust into the air and increasing the risk of exposure to your children," Dr. Williams.
Experts say every child should be screened for lead poisoning at ages one and two.
In other health news, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma in Lawton, Duncan and Altus are offering free colon cancer screening kits through the end of the month. Visit any of the three locations to pick yours up or inquire about all of your screening options.