Photograph of a newly painted building exterior of an older home with small children present. Was lead paint left scattered on the ground in the play area?. Lead Hazards in buildings, Dust, Paint, Water
General Advce, Lead Testing Procedures, Lead Poisoning Illnesses

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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.

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What is the Exposure Limit for Lead levels in blood?

Photograph of a lead water pipe providing water service to a home in New York (C) Daniel FriedmanThis website includes articles detailing how to find, test for, recognize, and reduce lead hazards in buildings and in our environment.

There is no safe threshold for lead levels in blood for developing children. Any amount is considered a hazard, particularly to children. [Paraphrasing Ref. #2 below.]

Article Contents

How Does Lead Enter the Human Body?

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

Photograph of a newly painted building exterior of an older home with small children present. Was lead paint left scattered on the ground in the play area?.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. [29]

Below we provide added details about these and other lead contaminant sources.

Lead in Garden Hoses Used for Drinking Water

Garden hose for water hookup (C) Daniel Friedman

What is the level of Risk from Lead Toys, Lead-containing Jewelry, & Other Sources of Lead?

Lead surface test in process (C) Daniel Friedman

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.

Photograph of old paint on a historic building, paint is likely to be a source of lead contamination on the soils below.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

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

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

What is the Level of Risk from Lead Plumbing & Lead in Water?

Photograph of a lead water pipe providing water service to a home in New York (C) Daniel FriedmanLead 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

The chemistry 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.

See LEAD IN DRINKING WATER, HOW to REDUCE and for more details on lead in water, also see LEAD in WATER, ACTION LEVELS

Lead Hazard Articles


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