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Lead Exposure Sources and Risks

Lead is a toxic metal that causes many adverse health effects. Companies use lead in gasoline, construction, mining, manufacturing, and consumer products. Due to runoff from industrial sites, you may also encounter lead in the soil and water.

Since the 1970s, government regulations, consumer lawsuits, and public awareness campaigns have drastically reduced the risk of lead poisoning. However, knowing where to find lead can help eliminate its danger to you and your family.

This article discusses lead contamination, including sources, health risks, regulations, and lawsuits.

Sources of Lead Poisoning

Many people don't realize they may encounter lead in various places. They may assume the only danger of lead poisoning is from lead-based paint. However, as explained here, lead hazards exist in many products and materials.

The most common sources of lead are in the home.

There are different levels of lead in various products and materials. Lead contamination can happen in different ways, depending on the source. Specifically, you may come into contact with lead in the following ways:

  • In your home
  • At work
  • In the air and environment
  • Using consumer products that contain lead
  • Bare soil and drinking water

 If you somehow ingest lead or inhale lead dust, you will be at risk of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning causes many health problems ranging from lung cancer to behavioral problems in children. The good news is that your doctor can give you a blood lead test to determine whether you or your loved ones have lead poisoning.

At Home

The most prominent sources of lead are in the home. If you live in an older home, lead-based paint may still exist. Hopefully, you'll discover these if you do any home renovations. However, many consumer products may harm you as well.

Sources of lead exposure in your home can include the following:

  • Peeling paint
  • Faucets
  • Lead paint
  • Lead pipes
  • Young children's toys
  • Lead-glazed ceramics and china
  • Old paint
  • Windowsills
  • Household dust
  • Stained glass
  • Paint chips
  • Candles

If you're worried that specific products in your home may contain lead, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission for more information. Be wary of products imported from India, Mexico, and other countries without stringent lead regulations.

Workplace and Hobby Exposure

You may expose yourself to lead without knowing it. There may be lead in your workplace, or you may handle products that contain lead. If this is the case, you must wear personal protective equipment.

You must also carefully remove any shoes or clothing with lead dust or particles. The last thing you want to do is bring lead home to your family.

Certain hobbies can also result in lead poisoning. For example, if you're into refinishing furniture, you may inhale lead dust while sanding painted wood or metal. Smelting can also put you at risk. This is true if you use smelters to melt metals for jewelry making or work with lead solder in stained glass making.

If you like to go to the firing range, you may encounter lead there, too. Many bullets contain lead. Even though the lead levels in bullets may be low, there's no reason to expose yourself to lead if you don't have to.

Air, Water, and Industrial Pollution

Even if you keep your home safe from lead, that doesn't mean you're safe from environmental health hazards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), industrial processes can cause lead in drinking water and lead-contaminated soil.

According to the EPA, runoff from mines and factories can contaminate local water supplies and soil. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund, a program for cleaning up hazardous waste sites, lists lead contamination as a significant environmental concern.

You may encounter lead in other places. Because of lead's use in leaded gasoline, mining, and manufacturing, environmental contamination can be a problem in some areas. Some aviation fuels and metal processing facilities can create significant lead pollution in the air.

Who Is at Risk?

Lead can pose different risks depending on the group it affects. Children are especially vulnerable to lead exposure. They are more curious than adults and don't realize the harm that lead poses.

Below is a brief discussion of the risks lead poses to the different age groups. If you want to confirm whether you or your kids have encountered high levels of lead, talk to your physician. If your child ingests a large amount of lead, take them directly to the emergency room.


Children under the age of seven are most vulnerable to lead poisoning. They also suffer the most from lead's harmful health effects. It's not uncommon to find lead products in your children's hands. They can pick up just about anything and place it in their mouths. Effects of lead on children can include the following:

  • Anemia
  • Stomach aches
  • Muscle weakness
  • Brain damage
  • Physical, mental, and neurological problems

Lead poisoning may also cause lower cognitive abilities, lower IQ, reduced academic performance, hearing problems, and increased attention and behavioral disorders. If you fear your child has ingested or inhaled lead, visit the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention site for assistance.


Adults can also suffer severe effects from lead poisoning. Adults can suffer high blood pressure, muscle pain, and organ problems if exposed to lead. Another side effect of lead exposure is damage to the nervous system.

High lead blood levels pose a particular risk to pregnant women. Families trying to have kids or are already expecting children should be aware of potential lead sources around the home and in their lives.

Treatment for Lead Poisoning

Treatments for lead poisoning are limited. Preventative measures are often the best plan. Removing sources of contamination should resolve less severe cases of lead poisoning. Your doctor can perform testing to determine your blood lead levels and those of your children.

Some people still rely on home remedies to treat lead poisoning, but it's best to go to the hospital or make an appointment with your doctor. If they discover lead in your system, you may need to undergo treatment for lead poisoning. One such treatment is chelation therapy.

Regulations and Lawsuits

Strong regulatory efforts have drastically reduced lead poisoning in recent decades. In the late 1970s, around 88% of U.S. children had significant lead blood levels. This rate declined to less than 1% by 2012. Today, federal and state governments tightly regulate the use of lead in water supplies and the atmosphere.

Lawsuits have also helped reduce the amount of lead in the environment. People suffering from lead poisoning have brought product liability lawsuits against paint manufacturers and construction companies.

These lawsuits help lead poisoning victims recover compensation after being exposed to lead. They have also raised awareness about the dangers of lead and prompted companies to remove dangerous products from the market.

Lead Exposure? Discuss Your Legal Options With an Attorney

If you or a loved one were injured and believe lead was the culprit, you may want to file a legal claim. Talk to a products liability attorney near you today if you have any questions.

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