Contaminated water is not the only way we are exposed to lead. This toxic metal lurks in a wide variety of products that we’d otherwise think were harmless.
One exposure one time isn’t going to cause a problem, of course, especially at very low levels. But repeated exposures over time from multiple sources could create a threat, especially to young children whose brains and organs are still developing and to pregnant and nursing women. Here are some of the most common—and least expected—ways we may be exposed to lead on a daily basis.
Lead used to be added to paint, both what we used to paint our homes inside and out and also the paint that was used in offices, schools and industrial buildings. The use of lead-based paints for homes, children’s toys and household furniture was banned in the U.S. in 1978. But lead-based paint is still on walls and woodwork in many older homes and apartments, reports the Mayo Clinic. Most lead poisoning in kids results from them eating lead-based paint chips.
Homes that have lead-based paint on the walls, doors and window frames often have lead-contaminated dust. Kids wouldn’t eat dust en masse, but they’d pick it up on their hands when they crawl around on the floor. It can also get into their food and anyone can inhale fine lead-tainted dust particles.
Even if the source of the water isn’t contaminated the way it is in Flint, Michigan, the pipes and plumbing fixtures in your home could be soldered with lead and that can release lead into tap water.
Imported Canned Food and Imported Hard Candies
Though lead solder is banned from canned food produced in the U.S., it is still used when food cans are made in some other countries. Lead can also be found in wrappers used on imported candy.
Imported toys may contain high lead levels that are especially dangerous for the kids who play with them and might chew on them. Blocks, dolls and action figures may be painted with lead-based paint and little metal pieces may be held together with lead solder. Cheap toys sold in vending machines and large volume discount stores are often contaminated as well, reports the New York Department of Health.
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that comes out of the earth’s crust, so remedies made from some herbs could be contaminated. The Mayo Clinic warns against using azarcon or sea coral, which is a Hispanic remedy for upset stomach and other digestive ills; litargirio or litharge, a powder used as a deodorant in the Dominican Republic; ba-baw-san, a Chinese herbal remedy for babies suffering from colic; and daw tway, a digestive aid used in Thailand that contains high levels of lead and arsenic…