What is Lead

Lead is a highly poisonous metal that is naturally found in the Earth's soil. Unlike other elements, lead has no benefit for and SHOULD NOT be found in the human body. Lead is a neurotoxin, which means that it attacks the brain and nervous system. After lead is ingested, usually through the mouth or nose, it typically enters the blood stream and is stored in the teeth, bones, and soft tissues of the body, such as the liver, kidneys, and the brain.

Because it is highly durable and inexpensive, lead has been used in many products throughout history including paint, pipes, ceramics, soldering, battery casings, and gasoline. In 1978, the United States government banned the use of lead-based paint in residential buildings; however, lead is still found in many of the 875,595 Tennessee homes built before 1978. Lead-based paint is commonly found on the walls, windows, baseboards/moldings, and the outside of these homes.

Where is lead found?

  • Interior and Exterior Paint in houses built before 1978
  • Pipes - indoor fixtures, public water supply systems, outside hoses
  • Some mini blinds - lead content should be marked on the packaging of the mini blinds
  • Battery casings
  • Some ceramics - do not use for food storage/preparation
  • Many toys
  • Soil
  • Common hobbies such as making stained glass, pottery, and fishing lures and refinishing old furniture can also serve as sources of lead
  • Home health remedies such as azarcon, greta, and pay-loo-ah

What are lead-based paint hazards?

  • Lead dust
    • Generally, lead-based paint in good condition is not hazardous but lead paint on impact or friction surfaces can create lead dust, which is the #1 source of lead poisoning for young children. Impact or friction surfaces are those that, through contact and/or rubbing, release lead dust into the air to be inhaled or ingested. For example, opening and shutting windows and doors that are painted with lead-based paint creates lead dust. Lead dust is especially dangerous because it can be very difficult to see.
  • Peeling or flaking paint
    • Over time, lead-based paint begins to peel or flake creating hazardous lead chips. These chips settle on floors, furniture, toys, and clothes waiting to be touched picked up by little hands which go into little mouths. This habit is one reason children have such a greater risk for lead-poisoning. Lead-based paint also has a sweet taste which may encourage little ones to eat paint chips as candy.