- Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. If the paint is in good shape, the lead paint is usually not a problem. Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
- It may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear, such as:
- Windows and window sills
- Doors and door frames
- Stairs, railings, banisters, and porches
- Be sure to keep all paint in excellent shape and clean up dust frequently. Read about simple steps to protect your family from lead hazards (PDF)
- Lead in household dust results from indoor sources such as deteriorating lead-based paint.
- Lead dust can also be tracked into the home from soil outside that is contaminated by deteriorated exterior lead-based paint and other lead sources, such as industrial pollution and past use of leaded gasoline. Read more about lead dust.
- Renovation, repair or painting activities can create toxic lead dust when painted surfaces are disturbed or demolished. Learn more about hiring lead-safe certified contractors.
- Pipes and solder — Lead is used in some water service lines and household plumbing materials. Lead can leach, or enter the water, as water flows through the plumbing. Lead pipes and lead solder were commonly used until 1986. Read more about lead in drinking water.
Soil, Yards and Playgrounds
Lead is naturally-occurring, and it can be found in high concentrations in some areas. In addition, soil, yards and playgrounds can become contaminated when exterior lead-based paint from houses or buildings flakes or peels and gets into the soil. Soil may also be contaminated from past use of leaded gasoline in cars, from industrial sources, or even from contaminated sites, including former lead smelters.
Lead in soil can be ingested as a result of hand-to-mouth activity that is common for young children and from eating vegetables that may have taken up lead from soil in the garden. Lead in soil may also be inhaled if resuspended in the air, or tracked into your house thereby spreading the contamination.
Check the exterior of your home, including porches and fences, for flaking or deteriorating lead-based paint that may contaminate soil in your yard or be tracked into your house. To avoid tracking contaminated soil into your house, put doormats outside and inside all entryways, and remove your shoes before entering.
To reduce exposure to lead, after playing or working outdoors, EPA recommends that children and adults leave their shoes at the door or use door mats, and wash their hands. To keep children from playing in soil near your home, plant bushes close to the house.
Also, older playground equipment can still contain old lead-based paint, and artificial turf and playground surfaces made from shredded rubber can contain lead. Take precautions to ensure young children do not eat shredded rubber, or put their hands in their mouth before washing them. Read more on playgrounds and artificial turf fields.
Lead in household dust results from indoor sources such as old lead paint on surfaces that are frequently in motion or bump or rub together (such as window frames), deteriorating old lead paint on any surface, home repair activities, tracking lead contaminated soil from the outdoors into the indoor environment, or even from lead dust on clothing worn at a job site.
Even in well-maintained homes, lead dust can form when lead-based paint is scraped, sanded or heated during home repair activities. Lead paint chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when the home is vacuumed or swept, or people walk through it. To reduce exposure to lead dust, it is especially important to maintain all painted surfaces in good condition, and to clean frequently, to reduce the likelihood of chips and dust forming. Using a lead-safe certified renovator to perform renovation, repair and painting jobs is a good way to reduce the likelihood of contaminating your home with lead-based paint dust.
Lead can be found in many products:
- Painted toys, furniture and toy jewelry— That favorite dump truck or rocking chair handed down in the family, antique doll furniture, or toy jewelry could contain lead-based paint or contain lead in the material it is made from. Biting or swallowing toys or toy jewelry that contain lead can cause a child to suffer from lead poisoning.
- Cosmetics— Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s web site to read questions and answers on lipstick and lead.
- Food or liquid containers— Food and liquids stored or served in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain can become contaminated because lead can leach from these containers into the food or liquid.
- Plumbing products — Materials like pipes and fixtures that contain lead can corrode over time.
Lead can enter drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. However, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to eight percent lead.
Beginning January 2014, changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act further reduced the maximum allowable lead content of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures to 0.25 percent. 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 the water, especially hot water.
Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. A number of factors are involved in the extent to which lead enters the water including the chemistry of the water (acidity and alkalinity), the amount of lead it comes into contact with, how long the water stays in the plumbing materials, and the presence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials.
To address corrosion of lead and copper into drinking water, EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The LCR requires corrosion control treatment to prevent lead and copper from contaminating drinking water. Corrosion control treatment means systems must make drinking water less corrosive to the materials it comes into contact with on its way to consumers’ taps.