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Rockwood School District

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Effects of Lead on People

Lead is a heavy metal found naturally in the earth’s crust. Once processed and purified, lead is heavy, malleable, has been historically used in a variety of ways including in paints, gasoline, batteries, bullets, keys, and some vinyl products such as mini-blinds. Fine particles of processed or recycled lead and/or lead dust from these items can become a health hazard when they are taken into the body through inhalation (breathing) and/or ingestion (swallowing).

Lead Poisoning

  • Lead can be an environmental hazard.
  • Lead does NOT naturally occur in the body.
  • Lead is toxic to the human body and impacts all body systems.
  • Lead enters the body through breathing or swallowing.
  • In most cases, lead poisoning does not produce noticeable symptoms.
  • The health effects of lead poisoning are irreversible.
  • Lead poisoning is preventable.

Image Source: OSHAcademy: Course 854 - Lead Safety in Construction, Section 1.6

Health Effects of Lead

Exposure to high levels of lead can cause severe damage to the brain, blood, and kidneys.  Children under six are most at risk from lead poisoning.  Even low levels of lead exposure have been found to permanently reduce cognitive ability and cause hyperactivity in children.


  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
    • lowered IQ
    • ADHD
    • learning disabilities
    • impaired peripheral nerve function
    • balance
    • hearing and speech impairment
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Low iron levels (anemia)
  • Seizures, coma, and death


  • nervous system effects
  • increased blood pressure (hypertension)
  • decreased kidney function
  • reproductive problems