Exposure to lead paint accounts for some exposure, but experts say kids also get their hands on contaminated toys and food.
Health officials in Montgomery County say lead exposure is jumping among children not born in the United States.
The county's chief health officer, Dr. Ulder Tillman, says exposure to lead has always been most common among people who live in homes or apartment buildings that are being renovated, thanks to older types of paint. Tillman says lead exposure has been rising recently among immigrant children, a statistic that is also increasing because of Montgomery County's growing immigrant population.
"There are some children who are coming into the country that have contaminated food, spices, jewelry and toys which are not made in this country, but are actually lead contaminated," says Tillman.
Tillman outlined his findings to the Montgomery County Council, which caught the ear of Council memeber Marc Elrich. He cited studies that show children who suffer from lead exposure are more likely to commit crime than those who don't.
"The upshot of the study is that these become involuntary behaviors," says Elrich. "The propensity for criminal acts and violent acts because of the effect of lead is not some subconscious decision that someone makes... it's actually induced because it's one of the effects of lead. And I think that has implications for the criminal justice system."
Tillman called on the county to do a better job of identifying where the lead contaminated objects originate.