What is lead?
Natural lead is a type of heavy-metal that is bluish-grey and formed in the Earth’s crust. However, the “lead” used in consumer products is a lead compound, where the natural metal lead is combined with two or more elements.
Lead compounds are used as a pigment in paints, dyes, ceramic glazes, and caulk. In recent years, the harmful effects of lead have directed manufacturers to decrease the amount of lead being used in these products.
Exposure to lead may lead to...
- impaired intellect
- memory loss
- mood swings
- nerve, joint and muscle disorders
- cardiovascular, skeletal, kidney and renal problems
Where is lead found?
Below is a list of common places where lead compounds may be found:
- some dishware
- paint (especially if your house was built prior to the mid-1970s)
- tap water
- some juice boxes
- traditional medicines
- imported ceramic glazes
- hair dyes
- painted toys, costume jewelry and imported pottery
Tips to Help Avoid Exposure
Although in small amounts, lead is still often found in consumer products. To help determine which products may have lead in them, you can purchase lead swabs from hardware stores to test your product. Here are some additional tips on how to avoid lead exposure:
- Keep an eye out for paints containing lead. If you currently live in a home that was built before 1978, there is a good chance the paint is lead-based. If you’re about to remodel your home or notice that the paint is chipping or peeling, hire a professional to remove the paint. It’s also a good idea to use doormats, remove your shoes at the door, and vacuum on a regular basis to help reduce the amount of lead that accumulates in dust around your home.
- Protect your drinking water. Lead may leach from cold water pipes in your plumbing system, so make sure to flush your cold water pipes before drinking. You can help avoid lead exposure by using cold water for drinking and cooking.
- Avoid products made of PVC. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products are made with phthalates, a class of chemicals used as softeners in plastic products, including children’s toys, teethers, and lunchboxes.
- Watch for lead in dishware. Old, imported or homemade ceramic dishware sometimes has glaze on it that may contain traces of lead. Avoid using leaded crystal glassware which can contain lead solder. Here are some types of dishware to keep an eye on, as they have been found to contain traces of lead:
- terra cotta pottery from Latin America (especially more rustic items that have a transparent glaze)
- highly decorative Asian dishware
- dishware that have brightly colored decorations
- glazed dishware with rough, raised or worn decorations (these decorative elements can have a glaze)
- glazed dishware that is chipping or deteriorating
- glazed dishware that leaves a dusty or chalky residue after washing
- antique dishware or dishware made before 1970.
- Double check ingredients in your medicines. Look at the ingredients and ask your doctor to make sure no traces of lead can be found in the medicines you take.