Why is lead in some homes?
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. In general, the older a home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.
The most common sources of household lead are:
Paint - The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978, but homes built before this time may have used lead paint.
Dust - Household dust can be contaminated with lead from paint, as can the soil around a house whose exterior was painted with lead paint.
Drinking water - Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder.
Can lead cause health problems?
If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and headaches.
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from difficulties during pregnancy, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain.
What should I do about lead?
You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention.
To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Abatement methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials.
Who should do the cleanup?
Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems -- someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. Contact the National Lead Information Center for help with locating certified contractors in your area and to see if financial assistance is available.
For more information, see the EPA's Lead Information Resources.
The above information is provided as a public service by the Environmental Protection Agency for educational purposes.