Lead Exposure

What is Lead Exposure?

Lead exposure typically happens when a person inhales or ingests lead into their body.

Both children and adults of all economic and ethnic backgrounds are susceptible to adverse health effects from lead exposure.  Animals can also be affected by exposure to lead. The medical and scientific communities continue to research ways to reduce lead exposure.

What the experts are saying:  Lead Exposure Research

Much has been learned in recent years for reducing or eliminating known risks where people are likely to come in contact with lead. Scientists have identified a variety of avenues through which lead exposure can happen.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, people who live in homes built prior to 1978 are at greater risk of lead exposure.  The risk increases for residents in inner city housing built prior to 1950. In both cases, lead-based paint is the primary cause.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) brochure on childhood lead exposure, lead exposure can come from multiple places and in various forms.

Examples of where people or animals could be exposed are:

  •         drinking water (lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures and valves can all leach lead)
  •         lead-based paint
  •         soil
  •         home health remedies (azarcon and greta, which are used for upset stomach or indigestion)       
  •         pay-loo-ah, which is used for rash or fever
  •         some imported candies (particularly those from Mexico)
  •         imported toys
  •         work (recycling or making automobile batteries and home remodeling)
  •         hobbies (making stained-glass windows, making pottery, and painting)

For obvious reasons, people who work in occupations that involve lead, either mining the raw material or working with lead-based materials, have a higher risk of lead exposure than those whose jobs are not associated with lead or lead-based materials.  

Those jobs with the highest risk to lead exposure are:

  •         auto mechanics
  •         battery manufacturers
  •         bridge workers
  •         construction workers
  •         firing range instructor
  •         glass manufacturer
  •         lead manufacturer (of any lead material)
  •         plastic manufacturer
  •         plumbers and pipefitters
  •         police officers
  •         printers
  •         rubber manufacturer
  •         shipbuilders
  •         steel welders/cutters


Children, infants and unborn children are at the greatest risk for adverse health effects due to lead exposure.  The CDC states that a developing fetus is most at risk for adverse health outcomes due to lead exposure, as levels that present risk to the fetus do not present a risk to the mother.

The CDC explains that while children’s lead levels have steadily declined in recent decades, some populations of children are still at risk of lead exposure. These are children who live in older homes or housing exposed to lead (through paint, water or old/imported toys).  Approximately 24 million housing units in the United States have deteriorated lead-based paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust, leading to lead exposure.

How is Healthy Homes lead testing conducted?

We generally use two avenues of approach when testing for lead in paint:

The first is x-ray fluorescence, or XRF, which is used to detect lead on surface paints.  XRF measures the amount of lead throughout all the layers of paint.  XRF can only be done by trained professionals and is especially useful in older homes that have been painted many times over the years.  This process also gives you on-the-spot results.  Healthy Home is one of the only lead testing companies in the area to offer this type of testing.

The second form of testing paint for lead is to collect paint samples from each surface and have it tested by a laboratory.

Testing for lead dust

We use a wet wipe surface test to test for lead in dust.  This is done by wiping the dust off of surfaces such as windowsills, floors and window wells.  Samples are sent to a laboratory for testing and results are reported back to you in approximately one week.

Testing for lead in water

Water is tested directly from the faucet.  Samples are collected after water has been sitting in the pipes, generally for 8 to 18 hours.  An initial sample is taken, often followed by a second sample after water has been running through the faucet for several minutes.  Samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Testing for lead in Soil

Another place that lead can be found in and around houses is the soil.  This is particularly true of houses that are located close to streets and highways and/or have deteriorated lead-based paint on the exterior.  Soil samples are taken from various locations around your house where children play and from areas where the soil is likely to be tracked into your home.  Samples are sent to laboratories for analysis.

If you think you or your family have been exposed to lead or your home has a good chance of harboring lead, testing is a great way to know for sure.  Healthy Home’s lead testing service is easy to schedule and provides up front pricing.