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What causes lead toxicity?

Children develop toxic levels of lead in their blood when they breathe in lead dust or eat items that have lead in them or lead dust on them. Lead can be found in a variety of sources around the home. Below are the most common:

BroomWhere is Lead Found?

Dust –

  • Lead dust is the main cause of lead toxicity in children.
  • Lead dust is created where surfaces containing lead, such as windows, doors, steps and porches painted with lead paint, rub together.
  • Lead dust can gather on floors, in carpets, on toys and other objects that children may put into their mouths.
  • Remodeling or repainting can also increase the amount of lead dust in your home.
  • Lead dust from contaminated soil brought in from outside the home can also increase the amount of lead dust in the home.

Paint –

  • Chipping, peeling or chalking lead paint is a common source of lead dust and may be a hazard. Lead-based paint may also be found on toys, furniture and playground equipment.
  • The older the home, the more likely it is that lead paint was used. This is especially true for homes built prior to 1950, but lead-based paints were widely used up to the time they were banned for residential purposes in 1978.
  • Lead paint in good condition is usually not a problem, except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust, such as where windows and doors open and close.

Soil –

  • Soil and dirt around homes and apartment buildings may contain lead from lead-based paint that is chipping and falling from the building, or from car exhaust fumes.
  • Children may come into contact with lead by playing in bare dirt.
  • Lead in soil can cause contaminated dust to settle on garden plants in summer months. Rinse vegetables well and plant gardens away from old painted structures.

Other less common sources of lead exposure:  

  • Pottery – Glazes found on some ceramics, china and porcelain can contain lead that can leach into food served or stored in the pottery.
  • Toys – You can find lead paint on older toys and on other products that have been made in other countries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission provides recall information of products.
  • JeweleryFoods, Candy, Cosmetics and Medicines – Lead is sometimes found in certain foods, such as candy imported from other countries (e.g. Mexico), certain spices, and in cosmetics and traditional herbal and folk remedies from other countries.
  • Jewelry – Some children’s jewelry or antique jewelry may contain lead. These items may present a hazard if mouthed, chewed, or swallowed by children.
  • Certain Occupations and Hobbies – People are exposed to lead while they are working in certain jobs or participating in certain hobbies and can bring that lead back into the home on their clothes and shoes. To prevent this from happening it is important to always wash, shower and change out of the clothes and shoes that have been worn before leaving work and after participating in the hobby. This keeps the lead from being brought into your home and vehicle. Those clothes should also be washed separately from the other family’s laundry.



Painting or sanding on industrial equipment

Stained glass (e.g. soldering)

Auto repair

Making ceramics

Manufacturing (e.g. metal equipment parts, batteries, bullets)

Fishing weights

Repair, renovation, remodeling, and/or painting of residential & commercial buildings

Shooting firearms during target practice

  • Drinking water and plumbing (lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures & copper pipes soldered with lead can release lead into tap water)
  • Folk remedies (Greta, Arzacon, Pay-loo-ah, Kohl, Kandu) and some herbal remedies (Ayurvedic)