Sources of Lead

Children are exposed to lead from many different sources.

This information can help you lower your child’s risk of exposure by learning how to find and identify possible sources of lead and how to remove them. Some work, such as lead home remediation, must be done by lead-certified professionals.




There are many common and non-traditional sources of lead.

Lead is a dangerous and toxic metal. Whether it is inhaled or swallowed, lead is harmful to the body and can cause serious damage to the brain over time. It is especially harmful to young children.

Your local health department may be able to help you identify sources of lead exposure. Call your local health department for more information.

Homes Built Before 1978

Whether you rent or own, be aware of any lead hazards in your home.
Common lead hazards include:
  • Lead-based paint can be found in many homes built before 1978. Lead paint is dangerous when it begins to chip, flake, or wear. This creates a lead dust hazard that can contaminate nearby surfaces inside the home or exposed soil outside.
  • Lead dust can form from lead paint. This dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air be breathed in when the home is vacuumed or swept.
  • Soil can become contaminated from lead paint flakes and dust. Young children playing with soil may ingest lead as a result of natural hand-to-mouth activity. Any vegetable growing in a garden of contaminated soil may also have absorbed and taken up lead.
  • Water can also be a source of lead poisoning. Homes with old plumbing systems may have lead in their pipes, fixtures and solder. Even new ones may have lead as legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to eight percent lead. Lead can leach into the household water supply when pipes corrode, becoming a hazard when this water is used for daily activities, such as brushing your teeth.
What you can do if you suspect you might have lead in your home:

If you suspect that you might have lead-based paint on your walls, use a wet cloth to wipe dust from windowsills and walls. Watch out for damage that can make paint chip and keep young children away from deteriorating paint. Hold off on any renovations. It is best to consult a professional to have your home tested, especially because other precautions might be needed to contain the lead in the paint.

To reduce exposure to lead dust, it is especially important to maintain all painted surfaces in good condition, and to clean frequently. Use wet scrubbing or steam cleaning methods for carpets, rugs, and damp mops for bare floors. Otherwise, use only vacuums with HEPA filters.

To avoid bringing contaminated soil into your home, children and adults should remove their shoes before entering the house and wash their hands after working and playing outside. Check the areas where your children play for buildings or play structures with peeling paint. If you grow a garden, have your soil tested and avoid planting vegetables close to the house or any painted structure.

If you suspect that you might have a lead contamination in your water system, take the following precautions: avoid using hot water for brushing your teeth, drinking, or cooking. Hot water causes lead to dissolve more quickly and boiling it will NOT remove the lead. Use an alternative water source whenever possible or use cold water only. If the water from the cold faucet has not been run for several hours, let it run for at least one to two minutes before use. The longer water has been sitting in the pipes, the more lead it can absorb.
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Work and Hobbies

Do you work or have a hobby that uses lead? Did you know that you could be bringing this toxic metal home on your clothes, shoes, skin, hair, and hands? Taking home lead dust can cause lead poisoning in children and other family members.

Common jobs with lead exposure include:
Painter Firearms instructor 
Ironworker Metal shop worker
Construction worker  Stained glass artist 
Cable splicer  Battery manufacturing
Automobile mechanic  Mining
What you can do to prevent taking lead dust home:
  1. Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating, drinking, smoking, or touching anything you will take home with you.
  2. Change your work clothes and shoes before entering your car or going home.
  3. Clean your lead-exposed clothes separately and safely from regular laundry.

If your work or hobby involves lead, you should be tested regularly. Ask your doctor today and keep your family safe from lead.
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Lead in Everyday Products 

Many products, especially items imported from other countries, may contain lead. It is an incredibly useful metal that is resistant to corrosion and very malleable. While it has many uses in everyday products, it is especially toxic to children. Teach your child proper hand washing techniques and to avoid eating, playing with, or using the following items:


Non-traditional source Where’s the lead? What you can do
Some non-glossy, vinyl mini-blinds manufactured in foreign countries contain lead. Exposure to the ultra-violet rays in sunlight deteriorates the vinyl, causing lead-contaminated dust to accumulate. Surfaces near such blinds such as windowsills, furniture, and carpet may contain hazardous levels of lead dust. Replace older (pre-1997) vinyl and imported mini blinds from your home. Once the blinds are removed, make sure the replacements are lead-free. The blinds may be labeled “No Lead Added” or “Non-Leaded Formula”. You may also choose to replace the blinds with new metal blinds, new wood blinds or other window coverings. Carefully clean up any dust in the area using wet cleaning techniques.


Dishware from developing countries such as traditional pottery and homemade craft products may be lead-glazed. Lead may leach into foods or liquids that have been stored or served in ceramics, pottery, china, or crystal containing lead. No amount of washing, or boiling can remove lead from pottery, china, ceramics, or crystal.

Always check for a warning label. If dishware was made to use only as a decorative item, it may have a warning stamped onto the bottom such as “Not for Food Use—May Poison Food.” Do not use it for cooking, serving, or storing food or drinks.

If you are unsure whether your dishware contains lead, do not use it to store or serve food or drinks. Use them for decoration only.

Find answers to your questions about lead in Ceramics from the Contra Costa Health Services Lead Poisoning Prevention Project here.

Lead has been found in inexpensive children’s jewelry and toys sold in vending machines and large volume discount stores across the country. It has also been found in inexpensive metal amulets worn for good luck or protection. Some costume jewelry designed for adults has also been found to contain lead. Make sure that children don’t handle or put any toys and jewelry in their mouths. Children who do are at risk of dangerous levels of lead.

Be cautious about buying inexpensive jewelry and toys – especially when shopping in-store or on-line when no information is provided as to where and how the jewelry or toys were made.

To check any toy or brand for official recalls due to lead, visit the website.

Some traditional, folk, or homeopathic medicines contain lead. These products are often are often imported from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India, the Dominican Republic, or Mexico.

Homeopathic medicines known to contain lead include Ayurvedic Medicines, Daw Tway, Bhasma, Smrti, Ba-baw-san, Ghasard, Greta, and Azarcon.

You cannot tell if a something has lead by looking at or tasting it.

Before giving any traditional, folk, or homeopathic medicine to your child, consult your child’s healthcare provider.

To check any medicines or remedies for official recalls due to lead, visit the Safety Recalls website.

Certain imported candies, foods, and spices, especially from Mexico, containing chili or tamarind may contain lead.

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

 Avoid giving your child imported candy or snacks, especially those containing chili or tamarind.

To check any food or drinks for official recalls due to lead, visit the Safety Recalls website.

Traditional eye cosmetics such as Surma or Kohl often contain high levels of lead.  For example, lead, usually in the form of lead sulfide, sometimes accounts for more than half the weight of kohl products. Help your children avoid using kohl and surma. Keeping kohl and similar products out of your home and away from your children is the surest way to keep them safe.<

To check any cosmetics for official recalls due to lead, visit the Safety Recalls website.

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. Keys are not an appropriate toy for children. While some parents give keys to their children to occupy them while the parents are busy shopping or doing chores, offer them a safer alternative.

Never allow a child to play with car or house keys. Bring play keys or another toy for them instead.

The majority of sinkers and fishing weights are made of solid lead. Children may put fishing sinkers in their mouths or handle tackle boxes, and fishing gear contaminated by lead sinkers, then eat or put their hands in their mouths. As an angler, be careful when using lead sinkers and never leave them unattended near a child. Consider using other sinkers, made from non-toxic materials. Some alternatives are: brass, tungsten, steel, and bismuth.
Hunters who use lead bullets or shot, 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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Additional Resources

  • Las Vegas Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Program

If you live in the Las Vegas area, the Las Vegas Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Program and offers FREE lead inspections and FREE repairs to the home if lead is found. For more information and to find out if you qualify, visit the City of Las Vegas website for more details here or contact Ztotchil Marquez with the City of Las Vegas at 702-229-4835 or email

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