What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. It can be found in all parts of the environment and much of it comes from human activities, including burning fossil fuels, mining and manufacturing. Because of its abundance, low cost and physical properties (soft, moldable and resistant to corrosion), lead and lead compounds have been used in a variety of products including paints, ceramics, pipes, solders, gasoline, batteries and cosmetics.

What are some occupations or hobbies that put one at risk of being exposed to lead?

Certain occupations where people are at risk of being exposed to lead, include iron workers, lead abaters, road construction workers, metal recyclers and residential remodelers. Residents may also be exposed to lead through activities such as home remodeling and target shooting.

Are there guidelines for the medical management of adults with elevated lead levels?

Evidence shows that even a low level of blood lead is a significant health risk at any age, and blood lead levels as low as 10 mcg/dL contribute to an elevation in blood pressure and are associated with an increase in mortality from heart disease and stroke, decreased kidney function and changes in cognition. Therefore, taking preventive actions, including reducing exposure and increasing biological monitoring (blood testing), to protect lead-exposed workers at lower blood lead levels is warranted.

The brochure, Lead Exposure in Adults - A Guide for Health Care Providers, provides health-based medical monitoring recommendations for the lead exposed worker, to aid in diagnosing, monitoring and treating workers with acute and/or chronic lead poisoning

Although blood lead level monitoring should be done on a schedule based on an individual's risk of exposure to lead, Management Guidelines for Blood Lead Levels in Adults, provides general guidelines of medical management recommendations, based on blood lead level categories

I am a target shooter, what can I do to lower my risk of lead exposure?

Shooters may be exposed to lead from ammunition that contains lead within the bullet and the primer. Lead particles and fumes may be released into the air and inhaled when the gun is fired.

If you shoot at an indoor firing range there are some simple steps you can follow to reduce your exposure to lead, including 1) using lead-free ammunition and primer and 2) washing your hands and face immediately after shooting.

I am renovating a house that was built before 1978. What can I do to lower my risk of lead exposure during the remodeling process?

Homes built before 1978 are likely to have surfaces painted with lead-based paint. If you work with these painted surfaces you can be exposed to lead. Renovation and remodeling activities such as dry sanding, scraping, or blasting lead-based paint can produce dust and paint chips that can be inhaled or ingested.

It is important to get the right equipment, for example, a respirator that has been properly fit-tested, and other protective clothing such as coveralls, goggles and gloves and use it properly. To minimize exposure it is also important to keep the work area contained, minimize dust and clean up thoroughly. Use wet cleaning methods such as wet mopping. Never dry sweep.

I am a pregnant woman, should I be concerned about protecting myself and my baby from lead?

If you have lead in your body, it can be passed to your baby during pregnancy. Even a small amount of lead in your baby can cause problems with growth, behavior, and your child's ability to learn. When you protect yourself from lead, you also protect your baby.

Data Resources

To get more detailed information on the number of New York State residents by county, age 16 years or older, with blood lead levels of 10 ug/dL or greater go to the County Health Assessment Indicators website.

The Prevention Agenda Towards the Healthiest State identifies priorities for improving the health of all New Yorkers and asks communities to work together to address them. Included is an objective to reduce elevated blood lead levels.

NYSDOH Lead Exposure in Adult Brochures:

Related Links

NYSDOH provides more information on non-occupational exposures to lead and childhood lead, as well as a plan for Eliminating Childhood Lead Poisoning in New York State.

The Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance Program (ABLES) program is a state-based surveillance program of laboratory reported adult blood lead levels. It is intended to identify and prevent cases of elevated blood lead levels in adults.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provides information on lead poisoning prevention.

Information on lead from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has materials on what homeowners need to know about removing lead-based paint.

The Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) has health-related information and a summary of possible sources of lead exposure.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides information about health hazards associated with indoor firing ranges.

The US Department of Labor and NIOSH provide information about employer responsibilities and occupational hazards associated with lead exposure.

An on-line training video about lead paint and ladder safety is available from the Alameda County, California Lead Poisoning Prevention Program's website.