- "Most lead used by industry comes from mined ores
("primary") or from recycled scrap metal or batteries
- "In 1979, cars released 94.6 million kilograms
(kg; 1 kg equals 2.2 pounds) of lead into the
air in the United States. In 1989, when the use of lead was limited
but not banned, cars released only 2.2 million kg to the
- ". . . lead was banned for use in gasoline for
transportation beginning January 1, 1996."
- "The potential for exposure to lead in canned food from
lead-soldered containers is greatly reduced because the content of lead in canned foods
has decreased 87% from 1980 to 1988. Lead may also be released from soldered joints in
kettles used to boil water for beverages."
- "The amount of lead added to paints and ceramic products, caulking, gasoline, and solder has also been reduced in recent years because of lead's harmful
effects on humans and animals. Lead used in ammunition, which is the
largest non-battery end-use, has remained fairly constant in recent
years. Lead is also used in a large variety of medical equipment (radiation shields for protection
against X-rays, electronic ceramic parts of ultrasound
machines, intravenous pumps, fetal monitors, and surgical equipment).
Lead is also used in scientific equipment (circuit boards for computers and other electronic circuitry), and military equipment (jet
turbine engine blades, military tracking systems)."
- "The domestic use pattern for lead in 1990 was as follows: lead-acid
storage batteries, used for motor vehicles, motive power, and emergency back-up power,
accounted for 80% of total lead consumption; ammunition, bearing metals, brass and bronze,
cable covering, extruded products, sheet lead, and solder represented
12.4%; the remaining
7.6% was used for ceramics, type metal, ballast or weights, tubes or containers, oxides,
and gasoline additives (USDOC 1992)."
Folk Remedies that Contain Lead
"Ingesting certain home remedy medicines may expose
people to lead or lead compounds. Examples include azarcon and greta,
Mexican folk remedies used to treat the colic-like illness empacho. Azarcon and greta are also known
as liga, Maria Luisa, alarcon, coral, and rueda. Lead-containing remedies
used by some Asian communities are chuifong tokuwan, ghasard, bali goli, and
kandu. Middle Eastern remedies and cosmetics include alkohl, saoott, and
cebagin." [ATSDR Case
Studies: Lead Toxicity]
Important Lead Exposures in the Past
Lead in Paint
"Before 1955, much white house paint contained up to 50%
lead. . . . The amount of lead allowable in paint was lowered by federal
law to 1% in 1971 and then to 0.06% in 1977."
Case Studies: Lead Toxicity
Lead in Gasoline
"Organic (tetraethyl and tetramethyl) lead which was added
to gasoline up until the late 1970s is not commonly encountered."
Lead in Printing Industry
"The printing industry was long associated with risk for lead poisoning,
but it is today a less significant source because of the prevalence of computerized and
other 'cold type' printing techniques."
Occupational and Environmental Exposure to Lead, Alf Fischbein
in Rom, p. 976.
Lead in Rubber Products
- ". . . formerly used in compounding rubber, & some of the severest cases
of lead poisoning reported in the literature occurred in compounders & mixers of
rubber when lead was the accelerator."
- In HSDB with original reference from Industrial
Toxicology, 3rd ed., Hamilton A, Hardy, HL. (Acton, Mass. Publishing
Sciences Group, Inc., 1974) p.90
Lead in Glass and Ceramics
Q. Does glass or crystal ware contain lead?
A. Ordinary glassware does not contain lead, but lead is used to make
the more expensive lead crystal. People who have lead crystal items should take the
- Do not store
liquids in lead crystal glasses or bottles.
- Do not drink
from lead crystal on a daily basis, especially if you are pregnant.
- Do not feed an
infant or child from a lead crystal baby bottle or cup.
Q. Do dishes or ceramic ware contain lead?
A. Since 1980, FDA has had limits on lead and cadmium in ceramic ware
products. The limits were lowered in 1991 to reduce consumer exposure to lead in food from
ceramic dishes that may have lead glazes. Most ceramic ware items sold in the United
States meet current FDA limits because manufactures tightly control the way they make
dishes to minimize the potential for lead to leach into food.
To avoid possible exposure to lead from ceramics and other tableware,
consumers should take the following precautions:
- Do not store
food in any dishes that may contain lead.
- Do not store
food in antiques or collectibles
- Be wary of
using or of storing food or beverages in highly decorated or metallic-coated tableware,
particularly items made in other countries or by amateurs and hobbyists.
- Pregnant women should limit their use of lead-glazed mugs
or cups for hot beverages, since lead is harmful to fetuses.
(To read the full statement from the National Safety
Council, go to http://www2.nsc.org/issues/lead/leadindishes.htm.)
Small and Large Risks of Lead Exposure in
Small: Electronic Soldering
- "Simple lead-tin soldering operations at
controlled working temperatures typically do not generate significant
lead fume concentrations." [Burgess, p. 381]
Large: Poor Hygiene Practices and Certain Small Workshops
- "Occupational exposure to lead is dependent not only upon the
concentrations of lead in workplace air but also upon the personal hygiene and personal
habits of the worker."
- "The lead hazard is particularly acute in small
companies/operations, often employing no more than three or four workers, engaged in
radiator repair, leaded or stained glass production, laboratories, or ceramics." (ACGIH)
Lead in Plastic Cable and Wire
"Some employees in the manufacturing of polyvinyl chloride-based
plastics work with lead-containing stabilizers, including dibasic lead phthalate, lead
chlorosilicate, and basic lead carbonates, all of which can produce dust when agitated.
Lead stabilizers account for approximately 60 % of all stabilizer consumption and are used
especially in plastic compounds requiring heat stability and tensile strength, as in
electrical insulation. Cable and wire manufacturing and splicing of cables, are other
examples in which there is risk for occupational lead exposure, although the replacement
of powdered stabilizers with pellet-formed stabilizers has been beneficial in reducing
this risk for cable manufacturing workers." (p, 975, Occupational and Environmental Exposure to Lead, Alf Fischbein
Lead in Paint for Construction
"The use of red lead as a protective agent for ships, bridges,
railways, and various other iron and steel structures is essential even today and of great
economic significance." (p. 975, Occupational and Environmental Exposure to Lead,
Alf Fischbein in Rom)
Lead in Residential Paint and Plumbing
About 90% of pre-1940 homes and 60% of pre-1978 homes contain
lead-based paints. In 1977 the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned "lead
containing paint" prohibiting the use of such paint on products to which consumers
are exposed after sale (42 FR 44199). In 1986 the Environmental Protection Agency banned
the further use of lead pipes and solder in residential plumbing. (Coluccio VM. Lead-Based Paint Hazards. Wiley, John & Sons; 1997, p.
Lead in Mineral Wool Insulation
"Mineral wool insulation manufactured before 1970 has been found to
have lead particles. According to industry sources, lead slag is no longer used in the
manufacture of mineral wool, although lead can be present as a trace impurity."
Lead Exposures in the Construction Industry" Go to this OSHA site and
do an "edit/find" for "mineral wool" from your browser's
Lead in the Construction Industry: High Risk
Projects Targeted by OSHA in 1993
|Highway and railroad bridge rehabilitation|
|Commercial and institutional remodeling|
|Highway and railroad bridge repainting|
|Reinsulation over existing mineral wool|
|Commercial and industrial demolition|
|Petroleum tank repainting |
|Water tank repainting|
|Transmission and commercial tower maintenance|
|Outdoor industrial facility maintenance/renovation|
|Housing lead abatement (public housing)|
|Indoor industrial facility maintenance/renovation |
|Stained glass window removal|
|Underground storage tank demolition |
|Housing lead abatement (private housing) *|
|Lead joint work on cast iron soil pipes *|
|Installation of radiation shielding *|
|Elevator cable babbitting *|
|Electrical cable splicing *|
|Repair/removal of water lines *|
|Installation of terne roofing *|
- *Lead exposure levels on these projects are not expected to exceed the
action level of 30 ug/m3.
- For more details, see "Controlling Lead Exposures in the
Construction Industry" at the OSHA Technical Manual website.
Terne or terneplate: "Sheet iron or steel plated with an alloy of three or
four parts of lead to one part of tin, used as a roofing material." (American
Heritage Dictionary, 3rd Ed.)
Babbitt metal: "One of a group of soft alloys used
widely for bearings. They have good bonding characteristics with the substrate metal,
maintain oil films on their surfaces, and are non-seizing and anti-friction. . . . the
main types are lead base, lead-silver base, tin base, cadmium base, and arsenical." (Condensed Chemical Dictionary)
Frit: ". . . finely ground inorganic minerals,
mixed with fluxes and coloring agents which turn into a glass or enamel on heating."
(Condensed Chemical Dictionary)
Revised May 30, 2018