What are Common Sources of Lead?

There are several sources of lead every family should be concerned about:

Lead-Based Paint
Prior to 1978, lead paint was frequently used in the interior and exterior decoration of homes and businesses. Lead paint can also be found on antique toys, furniture, jewelry and other decorative objects. The same is true for modern items manufactured in foreign countries. Because lead has a sweet taste, children will eat paint chips and chew on the surfaces such as cribs, highchairs, windows, woodwork, walls, doors, or railings containing lead paint.

Lead-Contaminated Soil
Lead can be found in the soil surrounding older houses when lead-based exterior paint ages and paint chips fall to the ground where they get mixed into the soil. However, the use of leaded gasoline prior to the 1980’s created a much more pervasive lead-in-soil problem. Over the course of decades, millions of automobiles across the nation burning this toxic fuel. From more than 60 years automobiles across the country exhausted fumes laden 4-5 million tons of lead particles. The wind distributed these particles onto nearby city and suburban lawns, gardens, parks, playgrounds and schoolyards. Until there is a cost-efficient means to remediate this lead, it will remain in the soil where susceptible children live and play. With up to 80% of indoor dust being comprised of outdoor dirt, lead-contaminated soil is not just an outdoor problem.

Lead-Contaminated Dust from Paint or Soil
Lead-contaminated dust can be found on windowsills, floors, doorways and children’s toys where it presents a danger to young children who crawl and often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.

Lead Dust Brought Home from Outside Activities
Clothing, equipment and vehicles that have been in lead-contaminated areas will bring lead-contaminated dust to the home. Common jobs and hobbies that use lead include battery manufacturing, radiator repair, construction, soldering, painting, demolition, scrap metal recycling, stained glass restoration and creation, pottery making, target shooting, hunting and fishing with lead weights.

Fishing, jewelry making, stained glass making, hunting and shooting all involve lead products that produce lead dust and fumes which can be easily ingested and inhaled by young children.

Imported Food
Canned food products may be sealed with lead solder. Some countries other than the United States even allow lead solder inside the food cans where the toxin is able to leach into the food product. Cans with lead solder are recognized by their wide seams.

Imported Home Remedies and Cosmetics
Some imported products contain lead. This is particularly true for imported items from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Lead-containing remedies are often bright yellow or orange in color. Examples include: Alarcon, Alkohl, Azarcon, Bali goli, Bint al zahab, Coral, Greta, Farouk, Ghasard, Kandu, Kohl, Liga, Litargirio, Lozeena, Pay-loo-ah, Sindoor, and Surma.

Imported and Handmade Pottery and Tableware
These home products are often decorated with lead-based glaze which can leach into food and beverages when are used for cooking or storing food.

Imported Candies or Foods
These food items may contain lead. This is especially true for imported Mexican products containing chili or tamarind. Lead is similarly found in imported candies, candy wrappers, certain ethnic foods such as chapulines (dried grasshoppers) as well as the pottery containers in which these products are packaged.

Metal Jewelry
Lead can be found in inexpensive children’s jewelry sold in vending machines across the country. It also found in inexpensive metal amulets worn for good luck or protection. Some costume jewelry designed for adults will also contain lead. Lead solder is often used in jewelry making and so it is important to make sure children don’t handle, mouth or swallow jewelry.