Lead 101: Post # 4 – More Facts

This post follows up on 3 previous postings about lead:

My quick reaction to this information about what lead is found in, & used for, was… who knew???

What Lead is Used For (& In)(1):

  • Anti-knock (gasoline additive)
  • Pigment in plastics, inks, paints, foods, spices & pottery
  • Corrosion-resistant covering on wires & cables & in paint
  • Component in health remedies
  • Solder for cans & pipes
  • Heat stabilizer in plastics
  • Friction reducer in bearings
  • High density shield against radiation
  • Insulation on wire & cable (electric storage batteries)
  • Ingredient in pewter
  • Aviation fuel

P.S. Of course it has increasingly been finding its sneaky way into children’s toys, jewelry items, herbal supplements, food… If you go hereyou will find a listing of items recalled in the U.S. because of lead contamination. I guess we all need to check this Web site often in order to stay abreast of lead-related recalls!

Occupations Involving Lead [this info stolen from here]

  • home improvement
  • painting & refinishing
  • car or radiator repair
  • plumbing
  • construction
  • welding & cutting
  • electronics
  • municipal waste incineration [who knew??]
  • lead compound manufacturing
  • manufacturing of rubber products, batteries & plastics
  • lead smelting & refining
  • working in brass or bronze foundries
  • demolition
  • working with scrap metal.

Note: People exposed to lead at work may bring lead home on their clothes, shoes, hair, or skin.

Some hobbies also use lead.

These include:

1. Making pottery, stained glass, or refinishing furniture.

2. Hunters who make their own bullets or anglers who make their own fishing sinkers can be exposed to lead fumes if they don't follow good practices (see here).

Fishing tackle (especially sinkers and jig heads) often contains lead. It is important to keep all lead objects away from children. Wash hands with soap and water after holding or using lead sinkers and jig heads or reloading lead bullets or shot. Never bite down on lead sinkers.

Again, credit for this info to New York State Dept. of Health

I strongly recommend readers go to this site for more info!!!

More Key Facts

  • If you are non-white, you are disproportionately at risk. (i.e., this is an issue of environmental justice) *** see more on this below…
  • The lower your income, the higher your risk.
  • The younger you are, the more lead you will absorb.
  • At low exposure to lead, brain deterioration is steeper.
  • Lead poisoning is not a curable condition. Therefore, prevention is the only possible strategy!
  • Lead-based paints are still being made in some Asian countries. Apparently also in Canada (see Lead 101: 20 Things’).

What’s Being Done About Lead in the U.S.?

U.S. Health Departments have programs involving lead poisoning prevention.

There is a federal program called Healthy Homes

The posting on Resources has many useful Web links, including some from U.S. Health Units.

What’s Being Done About Lead in Canada

I am looking into this. Not very much, from what I am able to see so far. Still hoping to find more, & will report on it when I can!

Check the Resources post for some Canadian Web sites.

What Needs to Be Done??

This is just my opinion, an as-yet, I admit, not wildly informed one:

  • Healthy Homes programs, similar to the U.S.
  • Primary Prevention efforts from Health Units; again, similar to those of the U.S.
  • Train parents how to tell their stories, so they can speak up about them loudly & far & wide, & help effect change. Note: the need for the parents affected by lead poisoning of their children to speak up was very specifically mentioned in the CDC workshop I attended.
  • Political action (i.e., get our “leaders” off their butts & paying attention to this issue)
  • Individual action (bugging politicians, learning more about lead, bugging local health units)
  • Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. This too was mentioned over & over & over again at the Chicago training workshop… This being a problem that affects everyone – every person & every institution & every part of our society, it clearly needs the cooperation of one & all to make changes happen. Capish?

*** Regarding environmental justice (referenced above, under More Key Facts):

In his book Dodging the Toxic Bullet – How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards, David R. Boyd speaks (on pg. 23, under the heading ‘Protecting the Vulnerable’) about this issue.

He says: “Individuals and communities have different levels of susceptibility to environmental health impacts. Groups that face higher risks to their health from environmental hazards include members of certain ethnic groups, people living in poverty, individuals with compromised immune systems, children, and the elderly. Extensive research in the U.S. proves that African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and poor people generally bear a disproportionate burden of exposure to urban air pollution, hazardous waste sites, landfills, chemical plants, and other environmental health hazards. In part this is because marginalized groups lack political power, and in part because underprivileged people often end up living in the lower-cost housing that is available near polluting facilities. In Canada and Australia, Aboriginal people have suffered systemic environmental injustice, resulting in a devastating history of problems ranging from exposure to radioactive waste to the contamination of traditional foods with mercury, PCBs, and other pollutants.”

From Dodging the Toxic Bullet – How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards, by David R. Boyd – pg. 23 (quoted with permission).

P.S. If you go here, you'll find all my lead-related blog postings listed in one spot.


(1) I can’t recall now where this list came from. Probably from a powerpoint presentation made at the workshop I attended in Chicago. When I manage to dig up its source, I’ll give proper credit here!