SUMMARY: Exposure to lead
happens mostly from breathing work place
air or dust, and eating contaminated foods.
Children can be exposed from eating lead-based
paint chips, or playing in contaminated
soil. Lead can damage the nervous system,
kidneys, and the immune system. Lead has
been found in at least 922 of 1.300 National
Priorities List (NPL) sites identified by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To find out if you live near a NPL site,
or if the commercial building you are planning
to buy is a NPL site,
Management & Control, Inc.
What is lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring
bluish-gray metal found in small amounts
in the earth's crust. It has no special
taste or smell. Lead can be found in all
parts of our environment. Most of it came
from human activities like mining, manufacturing,
and burning of fossil fuels.
Lead has many different
uses, most importantly in the production
of batteries. Lead is also used in ammunition,
metal products (solder and pipes), roofing,
paint, coatings, and devices to shield x-rays.
Because of health concerns,
lead from gasoline, paint and ceramic products,
caulking, and pipe solder has been dramatically
reduced in recent years.
What happens to
lead when it enters the environment?
Lead itself does not break
down, but lead compounds are changed by
sun light, air, and water. When released
to the air from industry or burning of fossil
fuels or waste, it stays in air about 10
days. Most of the lead in soil comes from
particles falling out of the air. City soils
also contain lead from landfills, cars and
lead paint. Lead sticks to soil particles.
It does not move from soil to underground
water or drinking water unless the water
is acidic or "soft". It stays a long time
in both soil and water.
How might I be exposed
Breathing work place air
(lead smelting, refining, and manufacturing
industries). Eating lead-based paint chips.
Drinking water that comes from lead pipes
or lead solder fittings. Breathing or ingesting
contaminated soil, dust, or water near waste
sites. Breathing tobacco smoke. Eating contaminated
food grown on soil containing lead or food
covered with lead-containing dust. Breathing
fumes or ingesting lead from hobbies that
use lead (leaded-glass, ceramics).
can lead affect my health?
Lead can affect almost
every organ and system in your body. The
most sensitive is the central nervous system,
particular in children. Lead also damages
kidneys and the immune system. The effects
are the same whether it is breathed or swallowed.
Exposure to lead is more
dangerous for young and unborn children.
Unborn children can be exposure to lead
through their mothers. Harmful effects include
premature births, smaller babies, decreased
mental ability in the infant, learning difficulties,
and reduced growth in young children. These
effects are more common after exposure to
high levels of lead.
In adults, lead may decrease
reaction time, cause weakness in fingers,
wrist, or ankles, and possibly affect the
memory. Lead may cause anemia, a disorder
of the blood. It can cause abortion and
damage the male reproductive system. The
connection between these effects and exposure
to low levels of lead is uncertain.
How likely is lead
to cause cancer?
The Department of Health
Services (DHS) has determine that lead acetate
and lead phosphate may reasonably be anticipated
to be carcinogens base on studies in animals.
There is inadequate evidence to clearly
determine lead's carcinogenity in humans.
Is there a medical
test to show whether I've been exposed to
A blood test is available
to measure the amount of lead in your blood
and to estimate the amount of your exposure
to lead. Blood test are commonly used to
screen children for potential chronic lead
poisoning. The Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) considers children
to have an elevated level of lead if the
amount in the blood is at least 10 micrograms
per deciliter (10 ug/dL). Lead in teeth
and bones can be measure with x-rays, but
this test is not as readily available.
Has the federal government
recommendations to protect human health?
The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends
all children be screened for lead poisoning
at least once a year. This especially important
for children between 6 months and 6 years
The Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) requires lead in air not to
exceed 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (1.5
ug/m3) average over 3 months. The sale of
lead gasoline will be illegal as of December
31, 1995. EPA limits lead in drinking water
to 15 micrograms per liter (15 ug/L).
The Consumer Products
Safety Commission (CPSC), EPA, and the states
control the level of lead in drinking water
coolers. Water coolers release lead must
be recalled or repaired. New coolers must
be lead-free. Drinking water in schools
must be tested for lead.
The Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD) requires that
federally funded housing and renovations,
public housing, and Indian housing be tested
for lead-base paint hazards. Hazards must
be fixed by covering the paint or removing
The Occupation Safety
and Health Administration (OSHA) limits
the concentration of lead in workroom air
to 50 ug/cubic meter for an 8-hour workday.
If a worker has a blood lead level of 40
ug/dL, OSHA requires that worker to be removed
from the workroom.
Where can I get More
Contact the local occupational
and environmental health clinics. Their
specialists can recognize, evaluate, and
treat illnesses resulting from exposure
to hazardous substances. You can also contact
your community or state health or environmental
quality department. Contact A.Q.
Management & Control if you have
any questions or concerns.
Carcinogenity: Ability to cause cancer.
Anemia: Low numbers of red blood cells or
Ingesting: Taking food or drink into your
Microgram (ug): One million of a gram.