Sources of lead besides lead paint

The main source of lead exposure for children is lead paint, but lead can be found in other places too. Learn more about other sources of lead.

Sources of lead

Lead can be found in water and soil as well as lead paint.

Less common sources of lead exposure include:

  • Ceramic dishes
  • Brass containers
  • Foreign/antique tea kettles (like samovars)
  • Stained glass
  • Large batteries
  • Bullets
  • Fishing sinkers
  • Folk medicines/cosmetics (like kohl) from other countries

Lead in water

Lead gets into water from lead pipes, lead solder, and some brass faucets. You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in water. Boiling will not reduce the amount it either. You can have your water tested to find out if it has lead in it.

Steps to reduce the lead exposure from water:
  • Run your water
    • If you haven't run your water for more than 6 hours, run it until it is cold.
    • Run each faucet before using it.
    • Fill a bottle for drinking water after running the tap and put it in the refrigerator.
  • Use cold water for cooking and drinking
    • Hot water may have more lead in it. If you need hot water, heat up cold water in a pan.
    • Never use hot water or foreign/antique tea kettles for making infant formula.

Additional Resources

Lead in soil

Lead can often be found in the soil of old painted buildings. It's also found near roads and in vacant lots where an old building once stood. You can have your soil tested to find out if it has lead in it.

Take these steps to reduce the lead exposure from soil:
  • Plant grass or bushes
    • Plant them around your house, where children play, and over bare soil.
    • Use tough grass, like fescue.
    • Cover dirt under swings and slides with mats, bark mulch, or other ground covers.
  • Change play area locations
    • Move play areas away from old buildings and roads.
    • Build a new sandbox and fill it with clean sand.
  • Use a door mat
    • This helps prevent dirt from getting into your home.
  • Plant gardens away from roads and old buildings
    • Before eating vegetables, wash or peel them.
    • You can also grow vegetables in pots using new soil.
If your soil has a high lead level, you can also take these steps:
  • Keep children away
    • Build a fence or barrier around that area.
  • Cover or replace the soil
    • Cover with clean topsoil, or remove and replace top 3 to 6 inches of soil with clean topsoil or other covering.
Test your soil

To have your soil tested, call the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at (413) 545-2311.

Christmas tree lights and other lights

The primary concern with any electrical lights is young children playing with or mouthing the wires of them. We recommend parents watch their children at play to ensure that they do not mouth these or other wires.

If you see a label on Christmas tree or other lights that warns about lead content, know that California law requires these labels for items sold in California. This is a result of California Proposition 65. This labeling law requires consumer products sold in California to notify consumers of the presence of a wide range of environmental contaminants in the product.

Copper in water

Water samples are often tested for both copper and lead. See our additional resources for copper and health.

Additional Resources

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