About Lead

What is lead?

  • Lead is a metal found in the natural environment.
  • Lead was used in products such as paint, varnish and gasoline to improve their performance.
  • Because lead was so widely used, it is found in all of our communities.

What is lead poisoning?

  • Lead poisoning happens when a high level of lead is found in the blood.
  • No level of lead is healthy for people, but it is very harmful to children, pregnant woman and adults who have long-term exposure.
  • Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, reduced IQ and attention span, learning disabilities, developmental delays, hearing loss, and other health problems such as seizures, coma and, in rare cases, death.
  • Most childhood lead poisoning occurs when children swallow lead dust or lead paint chips.
  • Lead poisoning is the most preventable childhood disease. 

Parents can learn more about lead poisoning and how to prevent it by clicking here.

Primary Sources of Lead

The four primary ways that people are exposed to lead is:

  • Lead-based paint
  • Dust from lead-based paint
  • Soil contaminated with lead
  • Water contaminated with lead

The majority of children's lead poisoning cases is caused lead paint and lead dust in houses built before 1978.

Lead-based Paint

  • Lead paint was banned in the United States in 1978 for use on homes so homes built before 1978 likely contain lead.
  • It is estimated that 71% of the housing stock in Connecticut was built before 1980 and that 69% of homes built prior to 1960 and 87% of homes built prior to 1940 contain some lead paint; so the majority of homes in Connecticut may contain lead paint.
  • If your home was built before 1978 and you find paint chips they should be cleaned up using wet mopping or wet rags. The mop head or rags should be thrown away so the lead is not spread to other places in the home.

Click here to learn how to renovate homes built before 1978 safely.


  • Lead dust is created when lead painted surfaces, like windows and doors, rub against one another. 
  • Lead dust can be created during painting, repairs and remodeling on homes built before 1978. When work creates dust, it then settles in your home, on things such as your furniture, floors, carpets, window sills, and window wells.
  • To clean lead dust always use wet cleaning methods, like a wet rag, wet mopping or wet wipes. The mop head, rags, or wipes should be thrown away so the lead is not spread to other places in the home.
  • Any time you are disturbing painted surfaces, like during painting and doing repairs to the home, use wet methods to minimize lead dust hazards in homes built before 1978. 

Click here to learn more about how to clean lead dust safely.


  • Soil around homes built before 1978 may contain paint chips or lead dust from old paint that has cracked, blistered or peeled and fallen from the painted areas on the outside of the home.
  • Children playing in soil near the home’s foundation may touch soil that has lead in it.
  • To prevent this, cover bare soil around the sides of the house by planting grass, shrubs, or by putting down mulch.
  • Wipe shoes on mats or remove shoes before entering the home to prevent spreading lead throughout the home, potentially poisoning residents.


  • Older homes may have lead water pipes or lead solder which can contaminate the water with lead.
  • Lead solder was banned from use in plumbing in 1986.
  • To avoid possibly drinking water that may have lead, run your water for 30 seconds or until it becomes cold before drinking it or using it to cook.
  • Never use hot water for drinking, cooking, or making baby formula.

Click this on this link to learn more about lead in drinking water:


Locations in and around homes where lead is most likely found


  • Windows have parts that rub against each other and create dust.
  • If those rubbing parts are covered in lead paint, then lead dust is created.
  • Areas around the windows including the window sills, window wells, and the floor below windows are likely to have lead dust on them.
  • Always clean window areas with wet rags or wet wipes. then throw the rags/wipes away.


  • Doors are constantly opened and closed creating lead dust as the painted surfaces rub against each other.
  • Always clean areas around doors with a wet mop or wet wipes. then throw the rags/wipes away.


  • Chipping and peeling paint on porches present a health hazard.
  • Do not leave children by themselves on porches with chipping and peeling paint because children tend to put their hands in their mouths and they will swallow any lead dust or paint chips on their hands.
  • It is recommended that you place an indoor/outdoor rug, plywood or other floor covering on the floor boards of the porch in order to prevent damage to the paint.

 Soil around the foundation of the home

  • If there is chipping or peeling paint on the outside of the home, paint chips and paint dust may land in the soil around your home.
  • To keep children from touching lead-contaminated soil, it is recommended that six inches of landscaping material, such as small rocks or mulch, or plants be planted around the sides of the home to create a barrier to the leaded soil.
  • Do not allow children to play in bare soil.
  • Do not plant vegetable gardens or fruit trees within 5 feet of the home's outside walls.
  • Test the soil before you start planting fruits or vegetables near your home’s outside walls.

Click here to see a list of labs in Connecticut that test soils for lead


Non-Environmental Sources: Below are other ways in which someone can become lead poisoned.

Ayurvedic Remedies

  • Some folk remedies or medications used in particular ethnic communities are known as Ayurvedic medications and may contain lead and other dangerous heavy metals.
  • These products are not tested by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if they are safe.
  • Products brought into the United States from India and South Asian countries are the most common in Connecticut.
  • In general, 1 in 5 Ayurvedic medications contain harmful levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic.

Click here to learn more about ethnic remedies that contain lead.



  • Some products are used as traditional make-up or for ceremonial purposes, however these products may contain lead and are dangerous.
  • Religious powder from India, eye liner from Asia, Africa or the Middle East, and other products such as kohl, kajal, surma, and tiro have been recalled due to high levels of lead.


Click here for more information on lead in cosmetics.


Imported Food and Spices

  • Imported food and spices, brought or sent to the United States from another country, may be contaminated with lead.
  • Lead will not be listed on the ingredients list.
  • Food and spices bought or sent from countries, such as India, Georgia (the country), Mexico, and some African countries have a greater risk of containing lead.
  • Spices such as zaprana, turmeric and curry powder that were produced in countries outside of the United States may have dangerous levels of lead in them.
  • Leaded ink may be used on candy wrappers, and lead solder may be used to seal imported metal food cans in other countries.
  • Food and spices brought into the United States from other countries may not be inspected or tested by the US Food and Drug Administration to determine if they are safe.

  • Be careful when importing or buying foods in metal cans from developing countries. 

Click here for more information on lead in candy.


  • Jewelry produced outside of the United States, such as necklaces, bracelets, charms, amulets, and metal clasps may contain lead.
  • This jewelry may be brought into the United States from different countries and sold here (commonly at flea markets, secondhand stores, or cultural shops).
  • This jewelry may also be purchased in stores and gumball machines.
  • Caution should be taken when purchasing jewelry made outside of the United States.

Click here for information on recalls due to high levels of lead.

Occupational Sources

  • Adults can be exposed to lead where they work.
  • Examples of occupations that may expose workers to lead include, painters, remodelers, contractors, construction workers and battery and metal recyclers.
  • Recently, workers in gun firing ranges and people who use firing ranges as part of their job such as police and military, have been identified as being at risk for significant lead exposure through lead dust from their bullets.
  • To avoid spreading lead to your home, change out of work clothing and shoes, wash your hands and face, and shower before leaving work, if possible.
  • Shoes are especially important to remove, as lead dust is tracked into the home on the bottom of shoes.
  • Always wash your work clothes separately from your family’s clothing.


Paints and Glazes:

  • Pottery and ceramics that are brought into the United States from other countries may be coated in glazes containing lead.
  • Over time, lead may leach out of the pottery.
  • If you are unsure of the where your pottery came from, use it as decoration instead of for cooking or serving food.

Fishing and Firearms:

  • Making bullets and sinkers should never be done in the home.
  • Making your own bullets and sinkers by melting lead and pouring it into molds creates lead vapor and can cause exposure to lead through inhalation.
  • When using firearms, especially in indoor firing ranges, lead dust is generated from firing weapons and also when lead bullets hit the traps.
  • Very high levels of lead dust have been found in indoor shooting ranges and this dust may also settle on the shooter’s skin and clothing.
  • Never eat or smoke while at the firing range, as lead dust that is in the air will fall on food and be swallowed when eaten.
  • Always change out of clothing and shoes before getting in your car or entering your home, so you do not contaminate your car and/or home. 

Tenant Rights

If you rent your property, there are things you should know:

  1. A landlord is not allowed to deny housing to anyone because they have children.
  2. Your landlord must keep the painted surfaces in your apartment in good condition. Your landlord must work in a specific safe manner when making working on the inside and outside of the home if the house was built before 1978.  
  3. Your landlord is not legally required to conduct lead abatement unless a child under the age of 6 lives in the house and has one venous blood lead test result of 20 or two venous lead results of 15 to 19 taken three months apart. 
  4. Your town can help you find a new rental if you are ordered to leave your apartment and relocate. Click here to learn more. 
  5. If you rent your home, you should contact your Town/City Assessor's Office to find out the year your house was built to help figure out the risk. 

To learn more about your rights as a tenant, click here or click on the links below for more information:

Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants in Connecticut
Learn about landlord's responsibility with repairs


Screening and Follow-up Schedule for Testing Children for Lead

How to contact your Local Health Department

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Lead Homepage