Did You Eat Paint Chips as a Kid? Discover the Surprising Effects

As children, we sometimes do things that make adults cringe. Many kids enjoy putting objects in their mouths, sometimes even eating them. One such object that some children have been known to eat is paint chips. While it may seem harmless, eating paint chips can have surprising effects on a child’s health and development. In this article, we’ll explore what happens when children eat paint chips and how it can impact their future.

What are Paint Chips?

Paint chips are fragments of paint that have peeled off of surfaces such as walls, furniture, and toys. These chips can be unintentionally ingested by children when they put objects in their mouth. Paint chips can also be accidentally inhaled while a child is playing with or around them.

Why Did Children Eat Paint Chips?

Many children who ate paint chips did so because they have a condition known as pica. This condition causes people to crave and eat non-food items such as dirt, clay, ice, and paint chips. Pica is most commonly seen in young children, pregnant women, and people with mental health issues or developmental disabilities.

What are the Effects of Eating Paint Chips?

Lead Poisoning

The most significant effect of eating paint chips is lead poisoning. Older paint, especially those manufactured before 1978, will most likely contain lead. When a child ingests these paint chips, the lead can quickly enter their body and cause severe health problems. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, lowered IQ, behavioral problems, and seizures.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Eating paint chips can also cause gastrointestinal issues. Paint chips can cause blockages in the digestive tract, leading to constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Additionally, paint chips can contain harmful substances that can irritate the lining of the stomach, leading to inflammation or infection.

Allergic Reactions

Some children might have allergic reactions to the substances found in paint chips. This can lead to rashes, hives, and trouble breathing. Additionally, some paint chips can contain poisonous substances like cadmium or mercury, which can cause significant health issues if ingested or inhaled.

How Can Parents Prevent their Children from Eating Paint Chips?

The best way to prevent children from eating paint chips is to make sure they are not exposed to them in the first place. If your house was built before 1978, it might have lead-based paint. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that homeowners take steps to identify and manage potential lead hazards in their homes. If you’re unsure about the presence of lead-based paint, consult an expert in lead inspection or removal.

Keeping the House Clean

Regularly cleaning the house can also help prevent children from eating paint chips. Dust and dirt often contain lead particles, which can settle on surfaces, including paint chips. Using a damp cloth to clean surfaces can help capture particles and reduce exposure. Additionally, ensure that your child’s hands are washed thoroughly after playing and before eating.

Teach Children to Avoid Putting Objects in their Mouth

Teaching children not to put objects in their mouths can significantly reduce the risk of them eating paint chips. Supervise children closely while playing and gently discourage the habit of putting non-food items in their mouth. Additionally, keep small objects that children might be tempted to eat out of reach.

Final Thoughts

Eating paint chips as a child can have long-lasting effects on a person’s health and development. Children often have a natural curiosity that can lead them to put objects in their mouths. As parents, it’s crucial to take steps to protect them from exposure to hazardous substances like lead. Identifying potential risks in the home, such as lead-based paint, is the first step in prevention. By teaching children not to put objects in their mouths and keeping the house clean, we can minimize their exposure to harmful substances.


  • Q: Can eating paint chips lead to lead poisoning?
  • A: Yes. Paint chips often contain lead, which can cause lead poisoning when ingested.
  • Q: What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
  • A: Symptoms of lead poisoning include developmental delays, lower IQ, behavioral problems, and seizures.
  • Q: What can parents do to prevent children from eating paint chips?
  • A: Parents can prevent children from eating paint chips by regularly cleaning the house, teaching children not to put objects in their mouth, and identifying potential risks in the home, such as lead-based paint.
  • Q: What should parents do if they suspect their child has ingested paint chips?
  • A: If you think your child has ingested paint chips, seek medical attention immediately. A healthcare professional can help determine if your child has lead poisoning and recommend appropriate treatment.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Pica. https://www.cdc.gov/pica/index.html
Consumer Product Safety Commission. (2019). Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/Protect%20Your%20Family%20from%20Lead%20in%20Your%20Home%20CPS.pdf
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (n.d.). Lead. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/lead/index.cfm

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