Common Sources of Lead

Lead Dust

Household dust is a common lead source for young children. The dust can contain lead from deteriorated, interior lead-based paint or tracked-in, contaminated soil. Lead dust can be created during home remodeling or renovation projects or when lead-based paint is not removed in a lead-safe way. Your house can look clean and still have lead in it. A child can breathe in or eat this dust.

  • Keep your home as dust-free as possible. Wet wash window wells, sills, and floors with a cleaning solution of household detergent. Mix the household detergent according to the directions on the container. Be sure to use two buckets - one bucket for the cleaning solution and one for the clean rinse water. Use separate sets of disposable rags or paper towels - one set for the wash step and one for the rinse step.

  • Wash your child’s hands with soap and water before eating, naps, and bedtime.

  • Wash bottles, teething rings, and toys with soap and water.

  • Do not allow children to play or eat around window areas in older homes.

  • Adults working in jobs with lead should shower and change clothes and shoes before coming home. This includes painters, remodelers, workers in smelters, battery plants, and radiator or auto body shops.

  • Clothes worn at work should not be washed with other clothes. Clean work clothes separately from other clothing. Run the rinse cycle once before using the washer again.

  • Keep windows closed on windy days so that lead-contaminated soil does not get into the house.

Lead-Based Paint

  • Eating cracking, chipping, and peeling lead-based paint is also a lead source for young children. Lead paint was used inside and outside homes built before 1978.

  • Be aware that lead-based paint may have been used on cribs, highchairs, windows, woodwork, walls, doors, railings, and ceilings.

  • Don't let your child eat or chew on anything you think may contain lead-based paint. Look for teeth marks on the woodwork in your home.

  • Be sure to wash the windows, as described above, often. Loose paint and dust can build up inside and under the window area.

  • Do not use your household vacuum to clean up paint chips or leaded dust. The filter in your household vacuum cleaner is not designed to pick up and hold small particles of lead. Using a regular vacuum cleaner will spread lead dust into the air.

  • Painting over chipping or peeling lead-based paint does not make it safe! You must first safely remove chipping or peeling lead-based paint before repainting.

Examples of lead-based paint


  • Soil can be contaminated with lead from deteriorated exterior paint on homes, buildings, or fences. Due to past use of leaded gasoline, lead can also be found in the soil near major roadways or intersections in urban areas. Neither of these places is safe to play areas for a child.

  • Don’t let your child eat outside on bare soil areas, eat dirt, or play next to the house or the street where bare soil is present.

  • Cover bare soil (any soil you can see) with grass, mulch, shrubs, or other durable ground covers.

  • Keep washable rugs at all your home’s entrances. Wash these rugs separately from other items. Run the rinse cycle once before using the washer again.

  • Take your shoes off at the door so soil and dust are not tracked into the house.


  • Plants usually do not absorb lead unless there is a large amount of lead in the soil.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating to clean off any lead dust that may have settled on the food. Do not store juices or food in open cans. Store food in glass, stainless steel, or sturdy plastic.

  • Remove the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables.

  • Plant gardens away from the house, garage, fence, or other structures covered with chipping paint.


  • Lead levels in your water are likely highest if your home or water system has lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder.

  • Plumbing put in before 1930 may contain lead pipes. Plumbing installed before 1985 may contain lead-based solder in the copper joints in the water supply system. Brass faucets and ball valves may contain lead.

  • The only way to know if your water (or another lead source) has lead in it is to have it tested by a certified lab.

If you think you may have lead in your water

  • Do not cook, drink, or make baby formula with water from the hot water faucet. Hot water dissolves more lead than cold water.

  • Always use cold water for cooking or drinking. If the water has not been used for six or more hours, let the cold water run for a few minutes or until the temperature changes.

  • Stay away from the hot water tap for eating and drinking. If you need hot water, heat cold water from the tap or the refrigerator.

Folk Medicine

Many folk remedies contain lead and should not be used. Please talk to your doctor if you are using any of the following folk remedies that may contain lead:

  • alarcon
  • alkohl
  • azarcon
  • bali gali
  • bint al zahab
  • cora
  • greta
  • farouk
  • ghasard
  • kandu
  • kohl
  • liga
  • lozeena
  • pay-loo-ah
  • surma