Questions and Answers About Lead
What is lead?
Lead is a bluish-gray metal that occurs naturally throughout the environment. Lead can be found in plants and animals used for food, and in air, water, and soil.
Lead is mined from ore deposits or salvaged from recycled scrap metal. Lead is used in a wide range of products. The main use of lead is in the manufacture of storage batteries. Other uses include the production of chemicals, paint, gasoline additives, ammunition, and various metal products such as sheet lead, solder, and pipes.
Why is lead not safe?
Lead exposure is dangerous for unborn children because their bodies can be harmed while they are growing during pregnancy. Exposure to lead by the mother during pregnancy can cause premature birth, low birth weight, or even miscarriage. Young children also are at an increased risk because their bodies easily absorb ingested lead and children are more sensitive than adults to its effects.
Lead exposure in infants and young children has been shown to decrease IQ scores, slow physical growth, and cause hearing problems. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause severe brain and kidney damage. Lead exposure also may increase blood pressure in middle-aged men and can affect the male reproductive system.
How might exposure to lead occur?
Lead exposure can result from inhaling lead particles suspended in the air, drinking lead-contaminated water, or ingesting foods or soil that contain lead. Exposure pathways include: inhaling air containing lead-contaminated dust, or ingesting lead-contaminated soil, both of which may be found at hazardous waste sites; or near areas with heavy automobile traffic. Children also may be exposed to lead by swallowing chips of paint which contain lead.
Historically, vehicle exhaust was the largest single source of lead in air. Lead may be found in drinking water as a result of the materials used in plumbing or solder; it also may result from lead contamination in the water source.
Is there a test to tell if I have been exposed to lead?
Lead exposure can be identified by measuring the amount of erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP) present in red blood cells. The amount of EP is high when the amount of lead in the blood is high. However, there are problems associated with this technique. Unless the lead levels are extremely high, EP levels may be within normal limits. Additionally, some diseases which affect the red blood cells, such as anemia, can cause high EP levels even in the absence of elevated blood-lead levels. Exposure to lead also can be identified by using x-rays to measure the amount of lead in bone and teeth.
Where can I get tested for lead?
The Portsmouth Public Health Clinic offers a free walk-in screening for lead. For more information, please call the clinic at (757) 393-8585, and ask for extension 126.
For more information about the Abex Corporation Site, please visit or
contact the EPA Community Information trailer. The trailer is located
next to the Washington Park Community Center and Effingham
Phone: (757) 393-7807
Hours: Monday - Friday
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm