A Small Dose of Lead

  • An Introduction into the Health Effects of Lead


Lead Dossier

  • Name: Lead (Pb)
  • Use: batteries, old paint, stabilizer in PVC, hobbies, solder, toys, X-ray shielding, smelters, and previously in gasoline and pesticides
  • Source: home, paint, dust, toys, children hands to mouth, workplace, ethnic health remedies
  • Recommended daily intake: none (not essential)
  • Absorption: intestine (50% children, 10% adults), inhalation
  • Sensitive individuals: fetus, children, and women of childbearing age
  • Toxicity/symptoms: developmental and nervous system, lowered IQ, memory and learning difficulties, behavioral problems
  • Regulatory facts: air - 0.5 mg/m3, drinking water 15 µg/L, not allowed in paint or automobile gasoline, 0.15 µg/m3 air standard
  • General facts: long history of use, major problem in paint of older housing, areas around old smelters can be contaminated
  • Environmental: global environmental contaminant
  • Recommendations: avoid, wash hands, wash kids' hands and toys, phase out uses in PVC plastics and child products, remove old lead-based paint

Lead Chapter

PowerPoint Presentation

More Information and References

European, Asian, and International Agencies

  • International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS). "The two main roles of the IPCS are to establish the scientific health and environmental risk assessment basis for safe use of chemicals (normative functions) and to strengthen national capabilities for chemical safety (technical cooperation)."
  • Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Air Quality Fact Sheet. This site provides educational material about the sources of lead and strategies for living with lead.


North American Agencies

  • Health Canada. Lead. Health Canada provides information on the health effects of lead and remediation programs.
  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lead. Site has information on lead health effects and lead abatement.
  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lead. Site has general information on lead.
  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lead in Drinking Water. Safe Drinking Water Hotline: 1-800-426-4791.
  • US Environmental Protection Agency The National Lead Information Center. Phone: 1-800-424-LEAD (424-5323)
  • US Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Lead. This site addresses workplace lead exposure.
  • Washington State Department of Ecology. PBT Initiative – Lead. Reviews the source and use of lead in Washington and offers recommendations on reducing lead exposure.



  • Bellinger, D. C. "Neurological and behavioral consequences of childhood lead exposure". PLoS Med 5, 115 (2008).
  • Gilbert, S. G. and B. A. Weiss. "Rationale for Lowering the Blood Lead Action Level From 10 to 2 μg/dL". Neurotoxicology 27, 5 (2006): 693-701.
  • Needleman, H. L. "The removal of lead from gasoline: historical and personal reflections". Environ Res 84, 1 (2000): 20-35.
  • London, Jack. The People of the Abyss.
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