Lead gets into the body by the following routes of entry:

  • Inhalation (breathing)
  • Ingestion (swallowing)
  • Skin absorption

Lead in the Body

Lead storage occurs primarily in the bones and soft tissue (liver, kidney and fat). A person can be affected by lead months or years after the initial exposures. Lead is slowly released back into the blood stream from storage sites such as organs or bones.

Very low lead exposures do not cause any short-term effects. Low lead level exposures over long period or high lead exposures over short period can cause acute and/or chronic health issues.

Lead Effects on Children

Just a few particles of dust from lead-based paint is enough to poison a child. Children are more susceptible because:

  • Children’s brains and nervous system are more sensitive to damaging effects of lead
  • Children’s growing bodies absorb more lead
  • Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths which may have lead dust on them

Children with high lead levels can experience:

  • Damage to brain and nervous system
  • Behavior and learning problems (hyperactivity)
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Headaches

health effects of lead

Lead Effects on Pregnant Women

During pregnancy, the body absorbs blood lead more quickly (50% of inhaled/ingested lead)

Lead passes through the placenta to the fetus and may result in brain damage to fetus, miscarriage or premature birth.

More information about the health effects of lead is available on the EPA lead website.