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Lead poisoning hazard sources around buildings:
Lead in the environment is a health hazard, particularly to children. While lead levels in children in the U.S. have dropped, this
environmental contaminant continues to be a concern. This article provides an overview of and links to more in-depth articles about
the common lead sources, risks, and steps to take.
This series of articles describes the sources of lead in the environment (air, water, soil, food, buildings, paint, toys, jeweler, pottery, other products) and the levels and effects of lead in humans and in other animals.
Lead enters the body by ingestion (eating paint chips or for toddlers, lead dust off of building surfaces, or drinking water with high lead levels),
or by breathing lead contaminated dust such as during building renovations and paint stripping.
Researchers have studied lead in building dust and house dust extensively. For example, Fergusson (1984 and later) and with Kim et als. (1993) report that lead is not alone among heavy metals, reporting on concentrations and sources of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc in house dust in New Zealand.
What are the Sources of Lead in buildings & of Lead in People's Bodies
While many articles and laws have identified on lead-based paint as an important lead hazard source in buildings, there are other sources of lead in the environment that affect people and the crops or animals they consume.
The New York State Department of Health points out that "...The most common cause of lead poisoning is dust and chips from old paint. However, some non-paint sources, though less common, can cause severe cases of lead poisoning." and goes on to list the following common sources of lead in and around buildings: paint, dust, soil, drinking water, air, Folk medicines, some floor tiles & floor coatings or polishes, ayurvedics, and cosmetics, Children's jewelry and toys, Workplace and hobbies,
Lead-glazed ceramics, china, leaded crystal, pewter, Imported candies or foods, Imported food in cans, Firearms with lead bullets, Mini-blinds, Other common sources of lead (car batteries, radiators, some inks, etc.), Consumer Products. 
Below we provide added details about these and other lead contaminant sources.
Airborne lead-containing soil & dust or lead emissions at highways and fields along highways -
see LEAD in AIR, EMISSIONS STANDARDS as well as lead-containing soils around buildings due to stripping of lead paint.
The New York Times reported in 2011 that airborne lead-containing dust as well as volatile and particulate lead emissions in smoke or exhaust may be deposited at high levels around and near battery recycling centers, particularly at facilities such as those in Mexico that receive batteries from the U.S. and that are not adequately regulated. 
Asbestos-containing floor tiles main contain lead in pigments used in the tile manufacturing procedure.
See LEAD in FLOORING PRODUCTS & POLISHES where we discuss possible use of lead in floor tiles and the detection of lead in vinyl-asbestos flooring using a hand-held XRF test device.
Ceramic floor tiles or other ceramic tiles may contain lead in glaze and pigments as do some older ceramic ware such as platters and dishes. An example of a lead-containing plate from Mexico is given
at LEAD TEST KIT for HOME USE
Lead Enviro-Scare: what is the environmental and home resale impact of lead paint or other lead in buildings
Lead based paint used indoors and outdoors. Lead paint on indoor surfaces becomes a lead hazard, especially to children, in the form of lead dust (raising & lowering lead-painted window sashes), direct contact by sticky little fingers, renovation and remodeling activities, and in buildings in poor condition, PICA - the eating of lead paint chips or peelings.
Airborne lead particles due to use of leaded gasoline in vehicles or other gasoline-driven motors and equipment -
see LEAD in AIR, EMISSIONS STANDARDS. While the prohibition of use of leaded gasoline has reduced the addition of lead to the environment from these sources, soil and dust may already be contaminated in some areas.
Lead in drinking water from lead plumbing or from the water supply itself. Lead in water is introduced below in this article
at Lead Plumbing Lead in Water.
You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
Drinking Water Lead Contamination -- Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Also
see LEAD PIPES in BUILDINGS
Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
The job as a source of lead poisoning -- If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your clothes separately from the rest of your family's.
Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain.
Lead smelters or other industries that release lead into the air.
Hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
Folk remedies that contain lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon" used to treat an upset stomach.
Watch out: don't assume that the interior of a garden hose is sanitary or that water run through an ordinary garden hose is safe to drink. Also some garden hoses contain lead - do not drink water from a garden hose unless you know that yours is not a lead-containing hose. If you are purchasing a new garden hose, check the label.
Some garden hose product labels indicate that the hose is safe for drinking. Others may indicate that the hose should not be used for drinking. Unfortunately still other hoses are simply not labeled - we won't know about any chemical or lead hazards from drinking from such a hose without testing.
The lead hazard in a garden hose, as with possible lead hazards from lead plumbing or lead-solder-based copper pipe connections, depends on several variables including how long water has been resting inside the hose (longer absorbs more lead if lead is present), on the chemistry of your water supply (more aggressive may leach out more lead), and of course on the lead levels in the source: hose, pipe, or somewhere else.
If you are in any doubt about the cleanliness of a garden hose being used for well pump priming or for an emergency water supply connection between buildings, sanitizing the hose or the plumbing system after it has been used.
What is the level of Risk from Lead Toys, Lead-containing Jewelry, & Other Sources of Lead?
Pottery, Ceramic, Porcelain, China. Some pottery products used lead in the glazing including dishes and cups - don't use these for food or drink.
Toys containing lead in metal (my old toy soldiers and cars) and toys painted with lead-based paint - see references below from the toy industry on lead in toys.
Jewelry containing lead or lead paste -- see references below for the CPSC SOP
Alternative medicine products sold within some cultural groups: litargirio - per the Brody article [Ref.4].
Unusual foods: salty fried grasshoppers from Mexico - per the Brody article (Ref.3).
Lead contamination on streets and in street water runoff, a residue from prior use of leaded gasoline
also see the U.S. CPSC Document 426 at reference #3 below.
A Summary of Lead Based Paint Hazards from the US CPSC & the US EPA
Since lead paint was banned in 1978, and since lead was
a very common additive in paints (for whiteness and flexibility), it's a reasonable guess that any older home built before (or perhaps slightly after)
1978 that has painted surfaces has some lead paint present -- unless all of the old paint was removed.
Painting over lead-containing painted surfaces
is not a fix as lead can leach through new coatings or be released during renovations. According to the Brody article [Ref. 4], the
National Safety Council says that leaded paint con be found in
homes built before 1940 - in about two thirds of these buildings
homes built between 1940 and 1960 - in about half of these homes
homes built between 1960 and 1978 - in a smaller number of these homes.
Watch out: OPINION - DJF: Although lead-based paint was no longer sold after 1978, that does not mean that someone may not have had older lead-based paint and used it after 1978. So don't rule out the possibility of lead
in paint in or on buildings painted at least for a few years after 1978.
The principal hazards from lead-based paint indoors include
peeling paint chips and children who eat them - PICA
building demolition or renovation work that contaminates the interior with lead-containing dust from paint removal or demolition
sliding casement lead-painted window sashes up and down, which may produce lead-containing dust on the window sill where it is
picked up and ingested by toddlers whose stick fingers grasp the sill and then go into their mouth
Lead-based paint outdoors is a potential hazard as well. Renovations and paint stripping or sanding make a lot of lead paint dust
or lead paint chips which may not only form an immediate hazard to people present, but may also contaminate the soil and form a hazard
later for children who play there. Soil tests for lead are available.
A List of Choices of Methods for Lead Paint Surveys
X- Ray Florescence (XRF) for lead paint surveys: Lead paint surveys for buildings are provided by people who have both training and special equipment
for this purpose using X- Ray Florescence (XRF). A professional
uses a (very costly) X-ray inferometer which permits sampling of building surfaces by bouncing x-rays through the surface.
can detect lead based paint which has been painted-over, and is quite accurate.
Standards may vary by state but for example in Maryland, paint with more than 0.7 milligrams per square centimeter of surface area sampled is considered to be lead paint. - Chauncey Sage, LEHA, Hudson Valley NY
A building survey for lead paint may cost about as much as
a professional home inspection. OPINION: any old house that has old paint on it almost certainly has lead paint present. I would not order
a "presence/absence" lead paint test. But in some circumstances it may be useful to order a "lead abatement" survey which surveys the building
interior and exterior, identifies the location of lead paint, and makes recommendations by specific area: leave alone, paint-over, or remove.|
Chemical Swab spot tests for lead paint identification are available using sodium sulfide or other chemicals. OPINION: chemical swabs that some home inspectors use for "lead testing" are junk science and are so unreliable that they should not be used. We are
informed that chemical tests for lead in paint give both false positives and false negatives.
Laboratory analysis of paint scrapings: functional and accurate if proper lab procedures are used; however be sure that paint chips or scrapings are individually packaged and identified, and that the samples collected accurately represent important possible areas of lead reservoirs on the building being tested.
Forensic microscopy for lead paint identification: special procedures can identify lead paint from very small quantities using micro chemical techniques pioneered by Chamot and Mason.
While we have duplicated this process in our forensic laboratory, it is unlikely to be cost-justified for building surveys and is probably better
reserved for specialized building forensic cases.
What is the Level of Risk from Lead Plumbing & Lead in Water?
Lead may be in water from the actual water supply well (unusual) or may enter water from lead water supply mains or entry laterals from the street, or
from lead-solder used for copper pipe connections.
Sources of lead in water
The degree to which water picks up lead from these sources varies quite a bit, and
depends on the amount of actual lead
surface to which the water is being exposed and the contact time of water to lead.
So water that sits in a lead water entry main overnight has
a pretty high lead content while water that enters a building after the lines have been flushed usually has a very low lead content.
Corrosivity of water affects lead levels
of the water and disinfectants added to it can affect the corrosivity level of water. More corrosive or "aggressive" water picks up more of whatever metals
it contacts. Since there are easy things you can do to reduce the amount of lead in drinking water a treatment system is not the only choice
for reducing this hazard.
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Questions & answers or comments about lead poisoning hazards in and around buildings.
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Kim, Nicholas, and Jack Fergusson. "Concentrations and sources of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc in house dust in Christchurch, New Zealand." Science of the Total Environment 138.1 (1993): 1-21.
Fergusson, Jack E., and Nicholas D. Kim. "Trace elements in street and house dusts: sources and speciation." Science of the Total Environment 100 (1991): 125-150.
Fergusson, Jack E., and Robyn J. Schroeder. "Lead in house dust of Christchurch, New Zealand: sampling, levels and sources." Science of the total environment 46.1 (1985): 61-72.
Fergusson, J. E., and D. E. Ryan. "The elemental composition of street dust from large and small urban areas related to city type, source and particle size." Science of the total environment 34.1 (1984): 101-116.
Jones-Otazo, Heather A., John P. Clarke, Miriam L. Diamond, Josephine A. Archbold, Glenn Ferguson, Tom Harner, G. Mark Richardson, John Jake Ryan, and Bryony Wilford. "Is house dust the missing exposure pathway for PBDEs? An analysis of the urban fate and human exposure to PBDEs." Environmental science & technology 39, no. 14 (2005): 5121-5130.
 "Lead From Old U.S. Batteries Sent to Mexico Raises Risks", The New York Times, Elizabeth Rosenthal,8 December 2011, web search 12/9/11, original source: nytimes.com/2011/12/09/science/earth /recycled-battery-lead-puts-mexicans-in-danger.html?_r=1&hpw
"The lead-in-construction standard was intended to apply to any detectable concentration of lead in paint, as even small concentrations of lead can result in unacceptable employee exposures depending upon on the method of removal and other workplace conditions. Since these conditions can vary greatly, the lead-in-construction standard was written to require exposure monitoring or the use of historical or objective data to ensure that employee exposures do not exceed the action level. Historical data may be applied to all construction tasks involving lead. Objective data was intended to apply to all tasks other than those listed under paragraph (d)(2) of the standard.
"OSHA does not consider X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to be an acceptable method of analysis. As stated in your letter, XRF analyzers are generally considered accurate when concentrations of lead in paint exceed 1 mg/cm�. For the purposes of occupational health, these levels are considered substantial and may easily present an exposure hazard. Without having conducted monitoring, or without the benefit of historical or objective data, the employer has no assurance of the employee's exposure.
"Other regulatory agencies, such as Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) have designated levels of lead in paint below which they consider the paint to be non-lead containing. The missions of these agencies differ from OSHA's, and for that reason, OSHA cannot recognize these levels as safe under workplace situations"
We recommend reviewing this position letter from OSHA. -- DF
 How to Identify Lead Paint Hazards, Maryland Department of the Environment, outlines
when a lead inspection is necessary, who can perform a lead inspection, and the types of analysis used for lead inspections and testing. Maryland
DOE includes suggestions for do-it-yourself lead paint testing using paint chips or scrapings. If you follow this approach be sure your
samples accurately represent conditions at the whole building, inside and out -- DF.
 "Lead Exposure Associated with Renovation and Remodeling Activities, Environmental Field Sampling Study, Volume I, Technical Support", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 747-R-96-007, May 1997 web search 5/10/12, original source: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/r96-007.pdf [copy on file as /Lead_Renovation_Exposure_EPAr96-007.pdf ] - Executive Summary:
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (Title X) required the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a study of lead exposure resulting from
renovation and remodeling (R&R) activities (the R&R study). The information obtained from the
study is to be used primarily to help determine which groups of people require training,
certification, or educational materials because of the potential lead exposure associated with R&R
activities they perform. This report presents the results of one of the principal data collection
efforts in the R&R study: the Environmental Field Sampling Study (EFSS). The EFSS, through
the collection of environmental measurements, assessed the amount of disturbance and potential
exposure to lead that resulted from selected R&R activities. The monitored activities included
both specific R&R activities, such as carpet removal and window replacement, as well as
miscellaneous generic activities such as drilling, sawing, or surface preparation (sanding, paint
scraping, etc.). Environmental samples collected in the EFSS included over 90 personal air
samples taken within the breathing zone of R&R workers as they performed specific R&R
activities, and over 500 samples of dust that settled on building surfaces within a specified period
following completion of an activity.
Worker exposure was assessed using the airborne lead levels from each worker's
breathing zone, as measured by a task-length average (TLA) exposure. A worker's TLA
represents average airborne exposure for the worker during conduct of the activity. The average
TLAs were hig
h during the conduct of many of the R&R activities, exceeding the OSHA
permissible exposure limit of 50 μg/m for four of the R&R activities. 3 Average TLAs were
greater than 100 μg/m3 for paint removal, interior demolition, and sawing, and greater than 49
μg/m3 for interior surface preparation and central heating system maintenance/repair. Exposures
resulting from drilling, carpet removal, window replacement, and exterior surface preparation
were considerably lower (below 20 μg/m3). The TLA exposure for each activity (as estimated in
the EFSS) can be combined with worker profile information (available from outside sources) to
characterize worker exposure.
Potential exposure to building occupants was assessed using the dust samples collected
by vacuum techniques from stainless steel dustfall collectors placed at specified distances from the
activity. Lead loadings from these samples were measured as indicators of the amount of lead
disturbed by an R&R activity and available for exposure to occupants. With the exception of
carpet removal and drilling into plaster, all activities monitored in the EFSS deposited significant
amounts of lead, ranging from 328 μg/ft2 for sawing lead-painted plaster to 42,900 μg/ft2 for paint
removal. Paint removal, demolition, sawing, and disturbing central heating system ductwork were
more likely to cause airborne lead to scatter and settle over a widespread area, while window
replacement and drilling confined the disturbed lead to a smaller area. While simple broom and
shop-vacuum cleanup substantially reduced the total amount of lead available to occupants,
cleanup efficiency declined as the distance from the activity increased. In addition, the average
amount of lead following cleanup often remained above 100 μg/ft2, the current EPA guidance
level for floors. The estimates of lead amounts within settled dust presented in this report can be
linked with information on types and durations of activities, types of work practices and cleanup
activities, and human health effects to provide a more complete characterization of occupant
exposure associated with R&R activities.
 Chauncey Sage, Lead Inspector, Hudson Valley NY, http://www.leadinspectionsny.com, Tel: 845-497-7465
Certified Lead Paint Inspector &
US EPA Certified
The Lead and Environmental Hazard Association
Using the LPA-1 XRF Spectrum Analyzer,
Capable of accurate readings in 2-4 seconds,
NO SCRAPING PAINT
OFF WOODWORK OR WALLS. Serving Orange, Rockland, Ulster, Sullivan,
Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam, Greene and
Columbia Counties in New York (NY)
"The voluntary standard established in the United States under ASTM F-963 and the European standard under EN-71 for soluble lead in toys (lead which may migrate from the toy and be ingested by the child) is 90 parts-per-million. At that level, any intentional use of lead in paints or other surface coatings containing lead would immediately put the toy over the permitted limit."
"Under federal law, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforces a standard for total lead of 600 ppm. Recently, the CPSC refused to lower the lead limit in paint and other similar surface coating materials to 100 ppm after finding that most paints sold in the United States were already at or below that level and, therefore, these materials did not present an unreasonable risk of injury warranting further government regulation."
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