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These 5 graphics show the prevalence of childhood lead poisoning

Lead poisoning has become less common over the past decades, but it still affects thousands of children in Massachusetts and across the nation.

The toxic substance can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells. It’s particularly harmful to children.

Lead pipes can leach the metal into drinking water. The alarmingly high lead levels in the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted renewed scrutiny of water supplies nationwide.

But lead-based paint — which is estimated to remain on the walls of tens millions of homes nationwide despite being banned in 1978 — is believed to be the main source of elevated lead levels in children.

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Children can get exposed by ingesting chipping, flaking, and peeling paint, particularly if it is disturbed by remodeling. Exposure can also come from household dust, soil, food, and certain types of pottery, porcelain, and pewter.

The following graphics detail the prevalence of childhood lead poisoning in the US, the state, and Boston:

4. The state considers some cities and towns to be at high risk for childhood lead poisoning
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has labeled certain cities and towns as being at high risk for childhood lead poisoning, based on factors such as the rate of cases in the past five years, the percentage of low- and moderate-income families, and the age of homes. The department gives a score to each such community. Below are the communities and their scores from 2010 to 2014.
Springfield
20.0
North Adams
15.9
New Bedford
13.8
Lawrence
13.2
Brockton
12.5
Southbridge
11.7
Holyoke
11.3
Lynn
11.3
Fitchburg
8.2
Lowell
8.1
Chelsea
8.1
Fall River
7.7
Pittsfield
7.7
Worcester
7.1
Boston
6.5
Somerville
6.2
Malden
5.9
Haverhill
5.1
Massachusetts
2.9
SOURCE: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
5. Within Boston, some neighborhoods have higher rates than others
The three graphics below — from a presentation by Robert Knorr, director of environmental epidemiology at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health — show that Boston's lower-income neighborhoods are hot spots for lead poisoning. That's because poorer families are more likely to live in homes that have not been deleaded. Knorr explained: "Being poor and being a minority not only increases the risk of blood lead poisoning but makes it difficult to find a safe home."
Massachusetts Department of Public

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele