Lead is a toxic metal used in many industries and hobbies in the United States. Exposures to lead can increase blood lead levels (BLL). An elevated BLL can cause serious health problems. Most adult lead exposures are due to their work or hobby. Workers can inhale lead dust or fumes or swallow dust while eating, drinking, or smoking.
Lead poisoning in adults is usually due to lead exposures in the workplace. Workers can inhale lead dust or fumes, or swallow dust while eating, drinking, or smoking through hand-to-mouth contact. Workers who perform certain jobs and activities are at a higher risk for lead poisoning. Examples of high-risk occupations are featured below.
Lead found in folk and traditional medicines, candy, and water can all cause lead exposures in adults. For more information, see Sources of Lead.
Most people are exposed to lead dust and lead fumes by swallowing or breathing it in. Once it is in the body, lead can be stored in your organs and bones where it can cause serious and permanent damage to your kidneys, brain, heart, and reproductive system. Lead can damage the body even if you are exposed to small amounts of lead over a long period of time. Lead exposures can cause:
Your risk of health damage increases with the amount of lead in your body and the length of time you have been exposed. It is important to remember that lead may hurt your body even if you do not feel sick or show the above signs.