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Facts About Lead

Lead is a soft, bluish metal found in the Earth's crust. It is virtually indestructible and is non-biodegradable.

Manufacturers have used lead in many different products, including paint, batteries, water pipes, solder, pottery and gasoline. HUD estimates that 75% of the houses built in the United States before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. In 1991, the Secretary of HUD characterized lead poisoning as the "number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States." (ref: Federal Register Vol. 59, No. 46 dated March 9, 1994) "One-sixth of all children in the United States still have high levels of lead in their blood."

The presence of lead based paint in housing represents the most significant hazard remaining for lead poisoning, particularly for young children. The most common means of exposure is for young children to eat peeled and flaked pieces of paint. The taste of the paint chips is sweet and the child continues to eat the paint, thus resulting in brain damage.


Environmental Consulting Services, Lead Based Paint Inspections, Violations Removed, Clearance Dust Wipe TestingLead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.

Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead. Lead poisoning occurs when you absorb too much lead by breathing or swallowing a substance with lead. Lead dust and paint chips from peeling or flaking paint can get into dust and soil in and around a home. The major route of lead ingestion is normal hand to mouth activity, and the placing of objects containing lead dust into the mouth. A small number of children may eat lead-based paint chips. Some lead dust may be inhaled if children are present when lead-based paint is disturbed.

The effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children can be severe. Children with chronic lead poisoning may show slightly lower intelligence and may be smaller in size than children their age who do not have lead poisoning. Behavioral problems can include hyperactivity; deficits in fine motor function, hand-eye coordination, and reaction time; irritability or aggressiveness, learning difficulties, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Fetuses, infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure than adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies, and the tissues of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Children may have higher exposures since they are more likely to get lead dust on their hands and then put their fingers or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths. Chronic lead exposure in adults can result in increased blood pressure, decreased fertility, cataracts, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, and memory or concentration problems. Adults are most often exposed to lead in the workplace or while doing hobbies. Although it is not normal to have lead in your body, a small amount is present in most people. Lead can damage almost every organ system, with the most harm caused to the brain, nervous system, kidneys, and blood.

EPA is playing a major role in addressing these residential lead hazards. In 1978, there were nearly three to four million children with elevated blood lead levels in the United States. By 2002, that number had dropped to 310,000 kids, and it continues to decline.

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