Lead is a known neurotoxin, and according to OSHA, recent epidemiological and experimental studies further support the theory that lead can cause blood lead levels as low as 10 µg/dL in adults to be associated with impaired kidney function, high blood pressure, nervous system and neurobehavioral effects, cognitive dysfunction later in life, and subtle cognitive effects attributed to prenatal exposure. The effects continue to get worse as BLLs increase; as BLLs exceed 20 µg/dL, can cause impact how your brain functions and negatively impact sperm/semen quality and delay conception. BLLs between 20 to 40 µg/dL are associated with slower reaction times and attention deficits, and above 40 µg/dL, workers have reported symptoms such as headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, joint pain and constipation.
Although Lead (Pb) was banned in the US for many products, it is still commonly found in our environment and in some homes. According to the US EPA, Lead is likely to be found in many older homes built before 1978, the year the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-based paint, and over 85% likely to be in homes built before the 1940s. This is because paint is rarely remediated and is usually painted over as it begins to peel or become damaged. Once the layer of paint containing Lead begins to break down, it can settle on floors as dust and get into our air.
Additionally, children are at risk for eating Lead as they crawl and explore the world by putting things in their mouths. This Lead-based paint isn’t found on just walls in old homes, but on window sills, doors and frames, stair railings, banisters and porches. As a result, simple home repairs and replacements have the potential to break down lead into dust, and if it is not cleaned and disposed of properly, you and/or your loved ones can be exposed. Horrifyingly, Lead can also be found in toys and other products despite both the CDC and EPA stating in no uncertain terms that “there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood.” In 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted a voluntary recall of 150 million pieces of metal toy jewelry sold widely in vending machines because of the way young children naturally put toys in their mouths. Additional recalls have taken place since then such as the 2007 Fisher-Price recall of nearly 1 million toys due to concerns of lead poisoning, and a 2018 recall of more than 30,000 rubber critter toys containing lead.
Lead & Drinking Water
Lead can enter drinking water as plumbing materials corrode over time, especially where the water has high acidity. Homes and buildings built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. To address lead and copper corroding and contaminating drinking water, EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Corrosion control treatment requires utilities to make drinking water less corrosive to the materials it meets on its way to consumers' taps.
In 2011, the Safe Drinking Water Act was revised to drop the maximum allowable lead content to a weighted average of 0.25 percent calculated across the wetted surface of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures and 0.2 percent for solder and flux.
Additionally, some cities are taking the initiative to use appropriated funds to replace lead service lines leading to consumers homes. For example, the City of Newark completed approximately 23,000 replacements citywide in under 3 years at no cost to residents, ensuring a more just approach to protecting public health.