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Learn About Lead Parents: Protect Your Family Contractors



Lead NuggetLead is a naturally occurring element which can be found in the earth’s crust.  Lead does have certain useful functions, however, even in very small amounts, it is extremely toxic to humans and animals, causing a variety of health problems.


Where is Lead Found?

Lead can be found almost anywhere in our environment including the air, in soil, in water, and most dangerously, even inside our homes. Human activities are responsible for much of the lead found in our everyday lives, including the use of fossil fuels (leaded gasoline), some types of industrial facilities, and past use of lead-based paint in homes. Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes, including paint, gasoline, cosmetics, pipes and plumbing materials, ceramics, solders, batteries, and ammunition.


Lead Paint SourcesLead can also be emitted into the environment from industrial sources and contaminated sites, such as former lead smelters. While natural levels of lead in soil range between 50 and 400 parts per million, mining, smelting, and refining activities have resulted in substantial increases in lead levels in the environment, especially near mining and smelting sites.


When lead is released to the air from industrial sources or vehicles, it may travel long distances before settling to the ground, where it usually sticks to soil particles. Lead may move from soil into ground water depending on the type of lead compound and the characteristics of the soil.


Federal and state regulatory standards have helped to minimize or eliminate the amount of lead in air, drinking water, soil, consumer products, food, and occupational settings.

Who is at Risk?


Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead paint.

Adults, Including Pregnant Women

Adults may be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead. They may also breath lead dust by spending time in areas where lead-based paint is deteriorating, and during renovation or repair work that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes and buildings. Working in a job or engaging in hobbies where lead is used, such as making stained glass, can increase exposure as can certain folk remedies containing lead. A pregnant woman’s exposure to lead from these sources is of particular concern because it can result in exposure to her developing baby.

What are the Health Effects of Lead?

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead.

Frustrated ChildChildren

In children, the main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system. Even very low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:

- Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems

- Slowed growth

- Anemia

In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.


Pregnant Women

Pregnant WomenLead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead can also be circulated from the mother’s blood stream through the placenta to the fetus. Lead in a pregnant woman’s body can result in serious effects on the pregnancy and her developing fetus, including:

  • Miscarriage
  • Reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth


Lead is also harmful to other adults. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from:

  • Nervous system effects
  • Cardiovascular effects, in increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Reproductive problems (in both men and women)

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