NEW: State health and education officials have launched a database for accessing water test results for lead in
Oregon schools. The tool provides an interactive map of Oregon and displays results for individual school buildings across the state.

Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal that has been used in a variety of manmade products. The use of lead has decreased over the years, but there are still lead-containing products or lead-contaminated areas in our daily environment.

Lead poisoning and health impacts

Lead poisoning occurs when too much lead builds up in the body. Children and adults can get lead poisoning by swallowing, inhaling or touching lead-containing products. When lead is absorbed, it can affect almost every body system.

Lead is toxic to humans of all ages but especially to young children and pregnant women because of harm to the developing brain. While lead can affect any organ system, it is primarily toxic to the nervous system. Exposure to lead can cause:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth
  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Impaired speech and language
  • Hearing damage
  • Kidney and liver damage


Sources of lead

Lead paint

If your home was built before 1978, lead-based paint may have been used inside and outside your home. The older the home, the more likely it is that lead-based paint was used. Chipping, peeling or chalking lead paint is a common source of lead dust that may be hazardous for children. Lead dust can gather in carpets, on floors, on toys and other objects that children put into their mouths. Home renovations may cause increased lead dust in your home, so be sure to use lead-safe work practices.

Lead in plumbing fixtures

Some older plumbing fixtures may contain lead or may be connected to pipes using lead solder. Over time, this lead can slowly leach into the water moving through the pipes. Lead solder is common in homes that were built or had plumbing redone between 1970 and 1985. Learn more about lead in water and plumbing fixtures.

Other sources of lead

Adults and children can also be exposed to lead by engaging in activities that use products containing lead and by using certain imported items. Some of these include:

  • Imported ceramics
  • Leaded glass or crystal
  • Stained glass
  • Traditional remedies or medicines
  • Imported cosmetics
  • Imported jewelry
  • Imported toys
  • Lead weights
  • Ammunition casings
  • Old furniture with lead paint


Reducing lead exposure

Follow these tips to protect yourself and your children from lead exposure:
  • Inspect paint in your home for chipping, peeling or deterioration
  • Use lead-safe practices or hire a professional for painting and repairs
  • Clean dust frequently
  • Wash toys, stuffed animals, bottles and pacifiers to remove lead dust
  • Wash hands often
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering the home
  • Have children play on grass instead of bare soil


Getting tested

There is no safe level of lead in blood. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick, so a blood lead test is the only way to determine if your child has lead poisoning. if you thing your child has been exposed to lead, contact your health care provider to test your child for lead.


Additional resources