C-FERST Issue Profile: Childhood Lead Poisoning
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, and cause health effects. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment – air, soil, water and even inside homes and other buildings.
Lead exposure can come from using fossil fuel, lead-based paint, and other products containing lead including ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, batteries and some cosmetics. Lead may enter the environment from both past and current use of lead-containing products.
Lead can also enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially in places where water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into water, especially hot water. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder.
Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands, and other objects that can have lead on them from dust or soil, into their mouths.
Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead; eating from dishes or glasses that contain lead; inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil; and playing with toys that contain lead paint.
EPA has determined that lead is a probable human carcinogen. Federal and state regulatory standards have helped reduce the amount of lead in air, drinking water, soil, consumer products, food and occupational settings.
Learn more about lead by exploring the links below.