Get the Lead Out! Protect Yourself from Household Lead

Did you know that the ancient Romans used lead as a paint additive ("crazy as a painter" was an ancient catch phrase rooted in the demented behavior of lead-poisoned painters)? Lead has had many odd incarnations over the years: it's been used as a nifty spermicide for informal birth control; the ideal "cold" metal for use in the manufacture of chastity belts; a sweet and sour condiment popular for seasoning and adulterating food; a wine preservative perfect for stopping fermentation.

We've come along way in understanding the dangers of this cheap and malleable metal and in the last 30 years have banned or restricted its use in most products. Today we know that lead is a poison. If a home or apartment building was built prior to 1978 the interior or exterior paint may contain lead. Household dust can contain small pieces of lead from paint chips.

Sometimes lead is in the soil next to buildings where homes have been remodeled or painted and paint chips or sanding dust has accumulated. There can also be an elevated lead level in water in a home where the plumbing was installed before 1930.

One out of every nine American children has too much lead in their bodies-and rates of lead poisoning are highest in cities.  Dust from lead is the biggest threat to young children, and causes irreversible, "invisible" damage to the brain and nervous system. A child may not look or feel sick. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also need to be concerned about lead levels since it can be passed on to unborn children and breast fed babies.


Keep paint in older housing in good condition. Repair peeling and chipping paint immediately and clean lead dust thoroughly with a HEPA vacuum.

Many children are lead-poisoned by simple homeowner renovations. If you have lead paint, strongly consider having a lead-certified contractor perform the renovation. For more information click here

If you rent, report peeling or chipping paint to your landlord or local health department.

Learn Lead Safe Work Practices before you start any home improvement project. For more information about making your home lead safe call
1-800-424-LEAD, and visit Training Site.

Do not try to remove lead-based paint on your own. It should only be done by trained professionals. Call 1-888-LEAD-LIST for certified inspectors and workers in your area or visit The Lead Listing on-line at

Reduce lead-based paint dust with good housekeeping habits. Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and other surfaces using wet methods that control dust.

Always wash your children's hands before eating.

Wipe or remove shoes before entering your home.

Plumbing put in before 1930 may contain lead pipes. Newer homes should not have water pipes joined with lead-based solder. Minnesota banned the use of water pipes joined with lead-based solder in June of 1985. New brass faucets may also contain lead.

The only way you can tell if your water has lead in it is to have the water tested by a certified lab. Call your local health department or the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-215-0890 or 800-798-9050 for the name of an approved lab in your area.

If you think that you have lead in your water:

Do not cook, drink or make baby formula with water from the hot water faucet. Hot water dissolves more lead than cold water.

Always use cold water for cooking or drinking. Let the cold water run for a couple of minutes, or until there is a temperature change, each time the water has been sitting in the pipes for six or more hours.

If you need hot water, pour it from the cold water faucet and then heat it on the stove.

Other Information and Resources

MN Dept. of Health to find a licensed lead removal professional 651-215-0890

National Lead Information Center 1-800-424-5323