Lead

What is Lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring formed element found in the Earth. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans, especially small children and animals.

Where can I find lead in the Aiken area?

You can find lead almost everywhere: in the air, soil, water, and even our homes. Lead is all over our environment.  We have used lead in many different situations, causing it to be more abundant in our immediate environment. Much of our exposure comes from the past use of leaded gasoline and paint inside residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. We have used lead in many ways, including: paint, wall boards, plasters, ceramics, pipes, plumbing material, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics.

The wide spread use of lead in the past has caused a lot of emission of lead into the environment over time and still currently. Natural levels of lead in the soil range between 50 and 400 parts per million. However, mining, smelting, and refining sites result in massive increases in lead levels in the surrounding environment.

When lead is released to the air from industrial sources or vehicles, it may travel far and wide before settling to the ground, where it usually sticks to soil particles. Lead may move from soil into ground water depending on the type of lead compound and the characteristics of the soil.

Once the dangers of lead were understood, regulations at the Federal and State level have reduced or eliminated the amount of lead in water, soil, consumer products, food, and occupational settings.

Who can be at risk to Lead in the Aiken Area?

Children

Lead exposure is dangerous to all people, but especially to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems.  Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development.  At very high levels, lead poisoning can cause seizures, coma or death.  Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead paint.  Some health effects caused by lead exposure, even small amounts, in children are:

  • Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems
  • Slowed growth
  • Anemia

Adults

Adults may be exposed to lead in many of the same ways that children do, by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead.  Adults are at risk of inhaling lead dust by spending time in areas where lead-based paint is deteriorating, and during remodeling, repair work or demolition that disturbs painted surfaces in older buildings, such as homes, commercial or industrial facilities.

Pregnant Women

Lead is stored in the bones with calcium. During pregnancy, calcium and lead is released from maternal bones and crosses the placenta to help form the bones of the fetus. Lead in a pregnant woman’s body can result in serious effects on the pregnancy and her developing fetus, including:

  • Miscarriage
  • Reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth