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Understanding Lab Values > Lead


Lead can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and our homes. Much of our exposure comes from the use of fossil fuels including past use of leaded gasoline, some types of industrial facilities, and past use of lead-based paint in homes. Homes built before 1978 could have original paint that is lead based. The older the home, the more the risk. Lead might also be found in paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics. 

Lead is particularly dangerous 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. Elevated lead levels can lead to brain damage, learning difficulties, slow growth, and anemia.

Babies and young children are at high risk 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. 

If an elevated lead level is found, the first thing we do is confirm the level with another test. If the level is more than 5 micrograms/dL, it is considered too high and efforts will be made to identify the source. We work with the Health Department to identify sources. Once the source of exposure is found, it is removed from the child's environment and levels are followed. If the lead level is too high, chelation medicines are used to more quickly remove lead from the child's system. 

If you plan on renovating your older home, it is important to contain any possible sources of lead. The EPA has numerous resources on its website's Renovation, Repair and Painting Program.

For more information on lead, please see the EPA website's Lead section.

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