Where is Lead Found?

Lead in Paint

All properties built before 1978 are likely to contain lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from use in housing in 1978.

  • In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
  • Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention. Lead paint is dangerous if it can get into your body. Children can be exposed in many different ways – lead dust on floors, windows, porches and from soil, toys and other consumer products and from parents who are employed in an industry that uses lead. Children are mostly poisoned by lead dust when putting their hands or other objects in their mouths.
  • You can test the painted surfaces in your home for lead with a do-it-yourself test kit or by hiring a state licensed lead professional.
  • Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

Lead in Dust

When lead paint deteriorates, chips, or is released into the air through friction (such as from opening a window or door), it creates dangerous lead dust, which you can breathe or swallow.

  • Children are at the greatest risk from lead dust because they are often on the floor and because they put things that have touched dust into their mouths.
  • Cleaning your home effectively and safely can significantly reduce lead-exposure.
  • In addition to lead dust from friction surfaces, lead dust can be brought into the home from outside. Soil and dust from your yard or from your workplace can bring lead into your home.
  • Sanding, scraping, or heating lead-based paint creates lead dust. Learn about removing paint, maintaining your home, and renovating safely.

Lead in Soil

Playing in bare soil can expose your children to lead, which they can ingest through hand to mouth activity. People and pets can track leaded soil into the home. Food grown in leaded soil does not usually absorb a lot of lead, but food should be washed, especially produce like lettuce that collects dirt amongst its leaves.

Why lead is in soil:

  • Lead-based paint from buildings and equipment can flake, peel, and get into the soil.
  • Lead particles in the air settle to the ground. Scraping a home’s exterior paint, for instance, releases dangerous amounts of lead dust into the air.
  • Lead from the use of leaded gasoline is still in our soil, especially along busy roads. Industrial pollutants in the air and water settle in soil.

What you can do:

  • Don’t let children play in dirt that is not known to be safe. Wash skin and toys and brush off hair and clothing before going inside.
  • Cover areas of bare soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips.
  • Use doormats outside and remove shoes inside.

Lead in Consumer Goods

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides information on lead in consumer goods. In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act lowered the amount of lead allowed in many children’s products, including clothing and the paint used in toys. The CPSC launched a new website, SaferProducts.gov, in 2011 making it easy for consumers to find out about product recalls, to read reports, and to report unsafe products. (The CPSC does not monitor lead or other hazardous additives in food.)

Some consumer products, particularly imported items, have been known to contain lead. They include the following:

Other Resources

Lead in Jewelry, California Department of Toxic Substances Control
Web MD: Lead in Toys: Could It Be Lurking in Your Home?
NCHH Fact Sheet: Toys and Childhood Lead Exposure

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