Lead

About Lead
Lead is commonly used in cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in television sets and computer monitors and in lead acid batteries, which are largely recycled. Lead also is widely used in many consumer products, including blinds, pipes, cosmetics and rain coats.

How am I exposed?
Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the most hazardous sources of lead for U.S. children.
Lead is also found in a large array of consumer products, from art supplies to cosmetics such as lip products. Lead can also leach into drinking water from old metal pipes. Some soils are contaminated with lead from facilities that process metals or past use of the lead-based pesticides. Workers exposed to lead on the job can bring it home on clothing and shoes, exposing their family members.

Why should I be concerned?
The neurotoxicity of lead and its health impacts have been well-established for decades. Children exposed to lead can suffer kidney damage, colic, anemia, learning difficulties, mental and physical developmental delays (walking, sitting up), and may exhibit behavioral changes, such as increased irritability or aggression. Children exposed to very high levels of lead can suffer convulsions, coma, brain damage and death. Fetuses can be exposed to lead if the mother has high lead levels in her body and exposure can cause premature birth and low birth weight

What can government and business do?

  • Federal and state governments should make sure that lead is phased out of products, contaminated sites should be cleaned up promptly and fully, and eliminate lead exposure to children from school drinking water.
  • Businesses should substitute lead with other metals or organic compounds for lead. Safer, more cost-effective alternatives for lead-based surface finishing are available, including immersion silver and immersion tin processes.

How can I reduce my exposure?

  • Test paint and dust from your home for lead
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint
  • Regularly wash hands as well as your children’s hands and toys
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components
  • Avoid color cosmetics, especially color lip products

Additional Resources
Lowell Center for Sustainable Production Fact Sheet: Lead
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow: Lead and Mercury
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lead Prevention Tips
Washington Toxics Coalition: Heavy Metals
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: Lead and Other Heavy Metals

 

Washington Toxics Coalition provided content for this page.