Lead is a metal that has been mined for thousands of years. It has commonly been used in paint, gasoline, household pipes, food cans, some folk remedies, and hobbies. Everyone is exposed to some lead every day. Small amounts of lead are found naturally in water, soil, and vegetation.
Lead is poisonous because it interferes with some of the body’s basic functions. And once in the body, lead may be absorbed into the bones, where it can stay. The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of lead-based paint for use in residences in 1978 and made it illegal to paint children’s toys and household furniture with lead based paint.
Who's at Risk
Children and the unborn are particularly at risk of the dangers from lead, because lead can cause problems with their development. Even a small amount of lead in a child can harm the child’s nervous system and can cause kidney damage, hearing damage, poor muscle coordination, deceased muscle and bone growth, and speech and language problems. Also, lead can cause learning disabilities and decreased intelligence. Often, this can occur without symptoms. And when symptoms do occur, they may be mistaken for stomachache, colic, flu, or other common illnesses. To learn more about lead and its effects on children, see the Lead Poisoning and Children page.