Sources of Lead 

Lead in Paint

Lead-based paint is a common source of lead in Nebraska. Lead paint was widely used in homes up until the 1950's and was not banned for residential use in until 1978. Lead paint is still found in many older homes today. Other household items may contain lead-based paint, such as toys and old furniture. Lead-based paint in poor condition may contaminate a home as it falls apart or deteriorates. Lead paint chips and lead dust are created when there is:

  • Chipping, cracking, or deteriorated lead paint
  • Abrasion, scraping, or friction of lead paint
  • Disturbance of lead paint during maintenance, renovation, or remodeling


Many Nebraska children are lead poisoned from windows

People should assume that painted surfaces in homes built before 1978 contain some lead, unless testing shows otherwise. Lead paint in good shape generally doesn't need to be removed. Chipping or cracking lead paint should be addressed. For more information on safe lead-based paint practices, see Homeowner Resources

Lead in Dust

Lead may contaminate household dust when lead-based paint is deteriorated or disturbed. Lead dust may collect in carpets, floors, furniture, troughs, windowsills, and ventilation filters. It may also get on children’s hands, toys, bottles, and pacifiers. Frequent house cleaning and hand washing may help prevent children from ingesting lead. To learn how to properly clean and control lead dust, see Cleaning and Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead in Soil

The soil around a house, garage, or fence could be contaminated by lead paint or industrial pollution. If a home has been sandblasted or pressure washed, the contamination could extend further out. See Lead Contaminated Soil to learn about addressing lead in yards.

Certain communities in Omaha are located in an EPA Superfund site because lead has contaminated several residential yards. For more information about soil contamination in Omaha, see EPA and ATSDR's Your Guide to the Omaha Lead Superfund Site

Bringing Lead Home from Work

Workers may bring lead home with them from a job site. This is called ‘take home lead’, and it may contaminate a child’s environment. Adults exposed to lead on a job may also be lead poisoned. Workers should take extra precautions if they work at any of these jobs or worksites:

  • Contractors who renovate or repair homes or buildings built before 1978
  • Workers who sand, scrape or blast lead-based paint
  • Recyclers of metal, electronics, and batteries
  • Manufacturers of bullets, ceramics, electronics, and jewelry
  • Demolition workers who work on old structures, or who use cutting torches
  • Firing range workers, gunsmiths, or police officers 
  • Construction workers
  • Foundries and scrap metal operations
  • Lead smelters
  • Bridge construction and repair
  • Steel workers

Visit our Adult Lead Poisoning page for more information on preventing occupational exposures and 'take home lead'.

Lead Toys and Jewelry

Some toys may contain lead and could put children at risk for lead poisoning. Toys made in other countries are more likely to contain lead paint. Other toys that may contain lead could be old or antique toys passed down through generations. Toy jewelry can sometimes contain lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issues recalls for products that contain lead. For a list of recalled items, visit the CPSC

Lead Brochures:

Lead in Candy and Food

Lead has been found in some candy imported from Mexico, especially those made with tamarind or chili powder. For more information, see the CDC's Lead in Candy page. The California Department of Public Health conducts testing and publishes a list of lead-contaminated candies with photographs.

Lead may be present in storage containers made from glazed pottery, imported cans, antique pewter, imported pottery, porcelain, and leaded glass. Do not store food in any of these containers. Lead dust on counters, dishes, and hands may also contaminate food. It's important to clean surfaces, hands, and food before cooking or eating.

Lead in Folk and Traditional Medicines

Lead has been found in some traditional and folk medicines. Lead may also be found in powders and tablets given for arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, colic, and other illnesses. Talk to your doctor if you or your family uses folk medicines. Examples of these medicines include: 

  • Ayurvedic medicines
  • Daw Tway
  • Bhasma
  • Smrti
  • Ba-baw-san
  • Ghasard
  • Greta 
  • Azarcon

For more information, visit the CDC’s Folk Medicine page.

Hobbies Involving Lead

Hobbies that could introduce lead to the home include those that work with: 

  • Stained glass
  • Fishing sinkers
  • Computer electronics
  • Automotive repair
  • Reloading bullets

Lead in Water

Water leaves the purification plant without lead in it, but by the time you turn on your tap, lead may have accumulated. This is because water may dissolve lead that is present in brass or bronze faucets, fittings, lead pipes, or lead solder. Water in Nebraska is hard, so lead is less of a problem here. However, individual homes with older fixtures may have a problem.

Lead in Dishes

Some imported or antique dishes may contain lead. These may include ceramic dishware as well as those containing lead crystal or potter glazes.

Other Potential Lead Sources

  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Old bathtubs
  • Lead wicks in candles
  • Drapery and window weights
  • Keys
  • Battery casings
  • Some imported plastic mini-blinds
  • Insecticides 

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