Published: March 15, 2018

    Where Are You Most Commonly Exposed to Lead?

    In the wake of the ongoing lead contamination crisis in Flint, MI, many families have become increasingly aware of the harmful effects of lead and how much lead appears in the natural world and in our homes.

    Before the full extent of lead’s toxicity was known much of the population was exposed to lead through its presence in common household and workplace products. Lead is easy to extract and easy to use in manufacturing, so for a time its use was standard. Lead-based products include paint, gasoline, batteries, ceramics, and the pipes that service our homes.

    Lead-based pipes were the norm until it slowly started being discontinued in the 1920s. However, lead wasn’t banned from national plumbing codes until the 1980s and between 6 and 10 million homes in the United States still have lead pipes. Even more homes are connected to water utilities that still use lead pipes.

    Where does lead exposure occur most frequently? Common sources of lead exposure include contaminated soil, lead-based paint, household dust, and drinking water contaminated with lead. But some sources are more likely to cause damage than others. For example, industrial sources and mining sites that used lead during daily activities drastically increased the lead concentration in the surrounding soil. Natural levels of lead in soil could range between 50 and 400 parts per million, but due to industrial pollution lead levels near your home could far exceed this figure.

    Some families may believe that the incident in Flint is an isolated and extreme example of water treatment gone wrong, and that overall they are rarely exposed to high levels of lead. However, this is not the case. According to the EPA, the corrosion of plumbing materials and the resulting lead contamination in our drinking water is one of the leading causes of lead exposure.

    According to the EPA, 10 to 20% of all lead exposure comes from ingesting contaminated water. This statistic is even higher for babies that consume formula: drinking contaminated water accounts for 60% of all lead exposure for newborns. Babies, infants, and young children are especially vulnerable to the harmful health effects of lead. Even a small amount of lead could prove fatal if ingested by a young child.

    At lead levels less than 10 micrograms per deciliter in the bloodstream the following health problems have been demonstrated in children: hearing loss, cognitive impairment, delays in puberty, lower IQ scores, abdominal pain and cramping, weight gain, slow bone growth, an increase in behavioral problems, and the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Lead can also cause lifelong developmental problems for babies in the womb, and as such pregnant women should avoid even microscopic exposure to lead.

    What can you do to limit your lead exposure? Check the paint in your home to ensure that none of it is lead-based, especially if you live in an older home. Then, invest in a water filtration system that is designed to eliminate your worry of lead exposure. Pelican Water offers a variety of lead water filters, all which prove to be an effective and affordable option that doesn’t waste water or electricity. Lead could be anywhere – don’t risk drinking tap water without a Pelican Water system.