Lead is a highly toxic metal found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. Because of its abundance, low cost, and physical properties, lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products including paint, ceramics, pipes, solders, gasoline, batteries, and cosmetics. Since 1980, federal and state regulatory standards have helped to minimize or eliminate the amount of lead in consumer products and occupational settings. Today, the most common sources of lead exposure in the United States are lead-based paint in older homes, contaminated soil, household dust, drinking water, lead crystal, and lead-glazed pottery. While extreme lead exposure can cause a variety of neurological disorders such as lack of muscular coordination, convulsions and coma, much lower lead levels have been associated with measurable changes in children’s mental development and behavior. These include hyperactivity; deficits in fine motor function, hand-eye coordination, and reaction time; and lowered performance on intelligence tests. Chronic lead exposure in adults can result in increased blood pressure, decreased fertility, cataracts, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, and memory or concentration problems.
Health Studies & Clinical Trials
What NIEHS is Doing on Lead