Lead Hazards-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lead Hazards

Lead is a proven neurotoxin and poses other health effects, including reproductive, digestive, memory and concentration problems, as well as muscle and joint pain.  Exposures are possible both at home and on the job, with the primary sources being lead-containing paint, lead piping and lead-containing solder.

Although lead has been banned in paint since 1978, many buildings that are older than that still contain lead paint, generally under coats of newer paint.  It is still possible to purchase lead-containing solder.
There are inexpensive test swabs available in home improvement stores and on-line that can help you identify whether you have lead in paint.  When you test paint in place, be sure to make a cut through all layers of paint before testing, to ensure you evaluate all of the paint present—the lead containing item may be at the lowest layer.  Solder is generally noted as lead-containing (or not) on the label.

Exposure problems generally occur with the inhalation of lead fumes or dust, or with ingestion of lead dust.  There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from lead exposures:
•    Always check old paint to determine if it contains lead
•    Never strip old paint with a heat gun
•    Use ventilation when cutting or grinding wood with lead paint (such as in a shop)
•    Always let the tap run for 30 seconds before drawing water (for consumption) from a tap in an older home
•    Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling suspect lead-containing materials (even under your fingernails!)
Check the EH&S web site for further information, under “Fact Sheets” and under “Chemical Safety.”

By: Mark Banister, markb2@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-1493