College of Nursing


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Health Science Campus
Collier Building, RM 4405

3000 Arlington Ave
Toledo, OH 43614
Mail Stop 1026
Student Services: 419.383.5810
Undergrad Advisor: 419.530.2673
Graduate Advisor: 419.383.5841

What are the main sources of lead?

Common routes of lead exposure are inhalation and ingestion. Lead is readily absorbed into the body via the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Children's tendency to explore as well as normal hand-to-mouth behavior increase their risk of lead exposure. Lead-coated objects, deteriorating paints, contaminated soil or dust, or lead containing products expose a child to lead without intentional ingestion (WHO, 2010).

Common sources of lead are found in the environment. In the United States prior to 1978, lead was also an additive to gasoline. Drinking water systems that utilize lead solder and lead pipes can release lead into the water that passes through them. Lead can also be found in soil from active industry or in the environment from disposal of lead-containing products, such as batteries  (World Health Organization [WHO], 2010).

Lead hazards can be found in several places inside and outside of your home, including: 

  • Old Paint: Lead-based paint, most often found in homes built before 1978, is unsafe if it peels, chips, cracks, or chalks. Since babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths, they are likely to swallow lead dust or chew paint chips. 
  • Lead Dust: This harmful, invisible dust is created when win­dows, doors, edges of stairs, rails, or other surfaces with lead-based paint wear down from repeated friction, such as opening or closing windows or doors. Children are most often poisoned by consuming lead dust through normal hand-to-mouth activity, Pregnant women who breathe in high levels of lead dust can transmit lead to their unborn children, causing serious damage. 
    • Lead dust can spread throughout a home when walls or other painted surfaces are sanded, scraped, or torn down. Only trained professionals should safely remove old paint surfaces in a home.
  • Soil: Soil surrounding homes may be contaminated from chipping or flaking exterior lead-based paint. While playing outside, especially on bare soil, children can accidentally swallow the contaminated soil, or track it indoors on carpets and floors where they can come into contact with it. 
  • Drinking Water: Lead pipes placed in homes before 1930 are likely to contain lead, which is released into drinking water as it passes through the old pipes. Between 10 and 20 percent of a non-lead poisoned child's total lead contact comes from drinking water. 
  • Food: Lead can leech into food or drinks, which are stored in imported ceramic dishes or pottery
  • Workplace Exposure: Parents who work in lead-related industries (namely painting, automotive, or recycling industries) or use lead for hobbies (such as for stained glass windows)
  • Home Remedies: Aragon, greta, or pay-loo-ah
  • Cosmetics: Kohl or kajal

Peeling window and door frames

Imported canned foods


Imported vinyl mini-blinds

Some painted toys

Folk remedies and cosmetics

Lead-glazed pottery

Water from old pipes

Metal, pewter, brass, crystal

Indoor and outdoor chipping paints

Lead contaminated soil

Hobbies (e.g., stained glass)

Fishing sinkers and bullets

Occupational (taken home on clothing)

                                                                                                                (Ohio Department of Health [ODH]. 2010)

Last Updated: 8/21/18