What is Lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth. It is widespread and can result in extensive environmental contamination, human exposure, and significant public health problems. Humans can come into contact with lead in many different ways including but not limited to: take home lead from certain jobs and hobbies, well water, sources in the home, and on some foods. While some information is listed on this page, the Minnesota Department of Health is a good resource for in-depth information and may be visited at any time.

Health Effects

Health effects from lead exposure may include:

  • Learning, behavior, and health problems in children
  • Miscarriages, infertility, premature births, and stillbirths in pregnant women
  • Underdeveloped brain and nervous system in a growing fetus
  • Impotence, reduced sex drive, low sperm, and abnormal sperm in men

Protecting Against Lead

  • Protect yourself by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, safety glasses, bodysuits, and a respirator when engaging in activities that may contain lead.
  • Keep your home as dust-free as possible. Wet wash window wells, sills, and floors.
  • Wash hands with soap and water before eating, naps, and bedtime.
  • Do not allow children to play or eat around window areas in older homes.
  • Keep windows closed at home on windy days to prevent contaminated soils from entering.
  • Do not use a household vacuum to clean up paint chips or lead dust. Safely remove chipping or peeling lead-based paint.
  • Take your shoes off at the door and keep washable rugs at all entrances of your home.
  • Get your water tested for lead.
    • If you think you may have lead in your water: Do not cook, drink, or make baby formula with water from the hot water faucet. If cold water has not been used in over six hours, let the water run for a couple of minutes. If you need hot water, heat cold water from the tap or the refrigerator.

Common Sources of Lead

  • Lead Dust: Household dust is a common source of lead for young children. Dust can come from deteriorated, interior lead-based paint or tracking-in from contaminated soil. Often times, lead dust is more abundant during renovations of old homes or when lead-based paint has not been removed in a safe way. 
  • Lead-Based Paint: Eating cracking, chipping, and peeling lead-based paint is another common source of lead exposure for young children. Paint that was used in and on homes before 1978 may contain lead.
  • Soil: Soil can be contaminated with lead from exterior paint or near major roadways and intersections due to previously used leaded gasoline.
  • Plants: Plants usually do not absorb lead unless there is a large amount of lead in the soil.
  • Water: Lead levels in your water are likely to be highest if your home or water system has lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder. Be aware that plumbing put in before 1930 may contain lead pipes. Minnesota banned the use of lead-based solder in 1985. 
  • Folk Medicine: Many folk remedies may contain lead and should not be used. These can include Alarcon, Alkohl, Azarcon, Bali Gali, Bint al zahab, Cora, Greta, Farouk, Ghasard, Kandu, Kohl, Liga, Lozeena, Pay-loo-ah, and Surma.

Bringing Lead into the Home

High-risk jobs and hobbies:

  • Construction, demolition, and renovation.
  • Lead soldering, welding, and smelting.
  • Manufacturing of fishing tackle and/or batteries.
  • Electronic recycling and janitorial maintenance.
  • Fishing and hunting.
  • Firing range target shooting.
  • Antique and furniture refinishing.
  • Ceramic pottery.
  • Stained glass making.

Blood Lead Levels

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The effects of lead cannot be corrected. The most important step parents, doctors, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information.

Mille Lacs County Community and Veterans Services have many resources available on lead. Call 320-983-8208 for additional information.