Frequently Asked Questions about Lead

Why is lead in some homes?

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead was used in gasoline, paint , plumbing and even from solder from food cans and ceramic cookware. Although lead pollution has been greatly reduced, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that major exposure sources still exist:
  • Lead-based paint in older homes that is deteriorating or disturbed during renovation or remodeling, creates dust particles and paint chips that can be easily ingested
  • Household dust can be contaminated with lead from paint, as can the soil around a home whose exterior was painted with lead ladened paint.
  • Your home drinking water may have lead in it due to the plumbing being made with lead or lead based solder

Can lead cause health problems?

Lead can produce adverse effects on virtually every system in the body. If high BLL's (blood lead levels) go undetected in children, it can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, developmental brain damage, seizures, coma, and even death.
Lead is also harmful to adults. High BLL's in adults can cause developmental brain damage to fetuses during pregnancy, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems and muscle and joint pain.

What should I do about lead?

Take action! You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by repairing damaged paint surfaces and planting vegetation to cover soil with high lead levels. Clean your home regularly to reduce lead dust that settles onto window sills, furniture and floors. Although these solutions reduce the amount of lead present in your home, the only permanent solution is lead abatement. Abatement methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. For this you must hire a certified lead abatement contractor.

Who should do the cleanup?

Always hire a person with special training and certification for correcting lead problems. You want to hire someone who is knowledgeable and will complete the work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. A certified contractor will follow strict safety guidelines set by their state or the federal government.
For more information, see the EPA's Lead Information Resources.
The above information is provided as a public service by the Environmental Protection Agency for educational purposes.
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