Lead Poisoning

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth's crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals, causing health effects. 

Where is lead found? 

Lead can be found in all parts of our environment - the air, soil, water, and even inside our homes. Much of our exposure comes from human activities including:

  • the use of fossil fuels (including the past use of leaded gasoline)
  • some types of industrial facilities
  • past use of lead-based paint in homes

Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes, including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition and cosmetics.

Who is at risk?


Lead is dangerous to children because their developing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Infants and young children often put their hands and other objects with dust or soil in their mouth, leading them to be more highly exposed to lead. Children may also be exposed by eating or drinking food or water containing lead, inhaling dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead-based paint.

Adults, Including Pregnant Women

Adults may be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or by breathing in lead dust in areas where lead-based paint is deteriorating, such as during a renovation that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes and buildings. A pregnant woman's exposure to lead from these sources is of particular concern because it can result in exposure to her developing baby.

(source: epa.gov/lead)

Testing Children for Lead Poisoning

A blood lead test is the best way to find out if a child has lead poisoning. A child with lead poisoning may not have visible signs or symptoms. Many children who have lead poisoning look and act healthy. Parents should talk to their child's pediatrician about getting a blood lead test if their child may have been exposed to lead.

For more information regarding who should be tested of lead poisoning, click here.