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.

Why was Lead used?

Lead has been put in products for many reasons:

  • It prevents corrosion. Lead will not crack easily with wear, weather, or temperature change.
  • It kills mold and mildew. Lead is used in areas with lots of moisture.
  • It is easy to shape. Lead is a soft metal and melts at a low temperature (620 F).
  • It is strong. Lead has a lot of mechanical strength.
  • It blocks radiation. Lead is used in products designed to block radiation, such as the lead aprons used when X-rays are taken.
  • It blocks sound. Lead was sometimes used for sound-proofing.
  • It helps paint dry. Lead was added to paint to quicken the drying process.

Lead is Dangerous

Lead is a dangerous poison. You can't see or feel the lead that can make you sick. Lead is most dangerous when it is in the form of dust or fumes. Lead dust particles can be very small. Sometimes they are so small, you can't see them. They are easy to breathe if they are in
the air. They are also easy to swallow if they are on anything you put in your mouth-like food, cigarettes, toys,or fingers. Lead dust settles on flat surfaces. When you touch those surfaces, you get lead on your hands. If you put your hands to your mouth, you will swallow lead dust. Since young children put their hands in their mouths a lot, they are at a high risk for lead poisoning.

Lead Causes Health Problems

It is important to know that even exposure to low levels of lead can severely harm children.

In children, exposure to lead can cause:

  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention-deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior
    problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth
  • Hearing damage

While low-lead exposure is most common, exposure to high amounts of lead can have
devastating effects on children, including seizures, unconsciousness, and in some cases, death.

Although children are especially susceptible to lead exposure, lead can be dangerous for adults, too.

In adults, exposure to lead can cause:

  • Harm to a developing fetus
  • Increased chance of high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Fertility problems (in men and women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain