What is Lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring, soft, bluish-gray metal that is found in small amounts throughout the environment. Lead from mining and recycled scrap metal has a wide range of uses in industry. It is used in manufacturing ammunition, batteries, chemical compounds, explosives, glassware, metal products, and petroleum products to name a few. To prevent rust and corrosion, lead also is used in containers and pipes, and most bridges are painted with lead-based paint.

Lead can enter the body in two ways:

Lead Gas Image

1) Through the Lungs

You can breathe in lead particles if they are in the air. This is how most workers are exposed to lead. When you breathe in lead particles, they enter the lungs and can be absorbed into the bloodstream throughout the body. Your body will quickly get rid of some of this lead, but the rest is stored in organs, tissues and bones.

Chipping Lead Paint

2) Into the Digestive System

You can accidentally swallow lead particles if they come in contact with the food you eat or beverages you drink. This can happen if you leave food or drinks in your work area or if lead particles are on your hands when you touch food. Lead exposure can also occur when particles are absorbed in to skin, but this is very rare.