Lead In Drinking Water

What is lead?


Common Sources of Lead


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Paint

Lead was used in paint to add color, improve the ability of the paint to hide the surface it covers, and to make it last longer. In 1978 the federal government banned lead paint for use in homes. Homes built before 1978 probably contain lead-based paint. Painted toys and furniture made before 1978 may also contain lead-based paint. Lead-based paint becomes a concern when it chips, turns into dust, or gets into the soil.

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Dust

Lead dust is the most common way that people are exposed to lead. Inside the home, most lead dust comes from chipping and flaking paint or when paint is scraped, sanded, or disturbed during home remodeling. Chipping and peeling paint is found mostly on surfaces that rub or bump up against another surface. These surfaces include doors and windows. Young children usually get exposed to lead when they put something with lead dust on it into their mouths. Lead dust may not be visible to the naked eye.

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Water

Lead seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household or building plumbing.

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Soil

Starting in 1973, the federal government started a gradual phase-down of lead content in gasoline, and by 1996, banned the sale completely. However, lead from car exhausts mixed with soil near roads and is still there today. Homes near busy streets may have higher levels of lead in the soil. Today, lead still comes from metal smelting, battery manufacturing, and other factories that use lead. This lead gets into the air and then mixes with the soil near homes, especially if the home is near one of these sources. Flaking lead-based paint on the outside of buildings can also mix with the soil close to buildings. Lead-based paint mixing with soil is a problem during home remodeling if workers are not careful. Once the soil has lead in it, wind can stir up lead dust, and blow it into homes and yards.

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Blinds

Some non-glossy, vinyl mini-blinds from foreign countries contain lead.

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Imported Candy

Lead can be found in candy, wrappers, pottery containers, and in certain ethnic foods, such as chapulines (dried grasshoppers).

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Bullets

Hunters who use lead bullets, and their families, are at risk of lead poisoning in several ways: ingesting lead shot pellets or lead bullet fragments or residues in game meat, ingesting lead residue from handling lead bullets, or inhaling airborne lead during ammunition reloading or at shooting ranges.

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Keys

Most keys such as house and car keys contain lead. While some may be made of stainless steel, many house keys and other types usually contain lead, since it allows the metal to be formed easily. Brass keys are often up to 2% lead.

Is Lead Harmful?


There is No Safe Level of Lead

Coming in contact with lead can cause serious health problems for everyone. Researchers keep finding more ways that lead is toxic. Levels that were once considered safe are now dealt with as a medical emergency.

Who is Most at Risk?

Children under six years, and pregnant women are at the highest risk. Coming in contact with too much lead can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system. In children, lead can also slow development or cause learning, behavior, and hearing problems.