chemical information


Chemical Class:


Found in these people:

Anonymous Adult 2, Anonymous Adult 3, Anonymous Adult 5, Anonymous Adult 4, Anonymous Adult 6, Anonymous Adult 7, Anonymous Teen 1, Anonymous Adult 9, Anonymous Adult 12, Anonymous Adult 13, Anonymous Adult 11, Anonymous Adult 10, Anonymous Adult 14, Anonymous Adult 15, Anonymous Adult 16, Anonymous Adult 17, Anonymous Adult 18, Anonymous Adult 20, Anonymous Adult 21, Andrea Martin, Bill Moyers, Davis Baltz, Lucy Waletsky, Michael Lerner, Sharyle Patton, Lexi Rome, Monique Harden, Charlotte Brody, Participant #1, Participant #10, Fred Gellert, Adelaide Gomer, Ann Hunter-Welborn, Jesse Johnson, Anonymous Adult, Winsome McIntosh, Judi Shils, Participant #18, Lynde Uihlein, Participant #2, Participant #20, Jessica Welborn, Alicia Wittink, Irene Crowe, Martha Davis, Emily Sayrs, Participant #6, Anonymous Adult RN7, Anonymous Teen 22, Anonymous Adult RN9, Dr. Beverly Wright, Adult #108, Adult B, Vivian Chang, Jennifer Hill-Kelley, Suzie Canales, Jean Salone, Cord Blood Sample 11, Cord Blood Sample 12, Cord Blood Sample 13, Cord Blood Sample 14, Cord Blood Sample 15, Cord Blood Sample 16, Cord Blood Sample 17, Cord Blood Sample 18, Cord Blood Sample 19, Cord Blood Sample 20

Found in these locations:

Chicago, IL; Newton, MA; Fredericksburg, VA; Washington, DC; New York, NY; Lamont, FL; Atlanta, GA; Mountain View, CA; Stanford, CA; Palo Alto, CA; San Francisco, CA; Berkeley, CA; Alamo, CA; Fallbrook, CA; Sausalito, CA; NJ, USA; Pleasantville, NY; Bolinas, CA; Mill Valley, CA; New Orleans, LA; Round Hill, VA; CA, USA; Belvedere, CA; Ithaca, NY; Encinitas, CA; Ross, CA; VA, USA; Milwaukee, WI; CO, USA; Littleton, CO; MD, USA; Oakland, CA; Green Bay, WI; Corpus Christi, TX

Exposure routes:

Lead-based paint in older homes, household dust, vinyl products.


Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that can cause permanent neurological and behavioral problems and affects virtually every system in the body. The state of California lists lead as a developmental and reproductive toxin because of its potential for causing infertility and spontaneous abortion in adults and developmental defects in children. Studies also suggest a relationship between blood lead levels and pre-term delivery, low birth weight and fetal growth retardation (ATSDR 1999).

Lead can affect children at extremely low levels, and there is no evidence of a threshold dose below which developmental effects do not occur. Levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dL), currently considered the threshold for elevated blood lead level, have been associated with decreased intelligence and impaired neurobehavioral development (ATSDR 1999). Lead is 'reasonably anticipated' to be a human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), based on kidney and nervous system tumors in laboratory animals (NTP 2002).

Since lead has been removed from gasoline and food containers, the most common source of exposure is lead-based house paint. About 10 billion pounds of lead paint were used in the United States between its introduction in 1889 and the imposition of federal restrictions in 1970 -- 61 years after France, 48 years after Australia and 44 years after Great Britain.

House dust is often contaminated by lead-based paint that is peeling, deteriorating, or is disturbed during renovation or the preparation of painted surfaces for repainting without proper safeguards. Soil contamination can be traced to deteriorating exterior paint or past usage of leaded gasoline.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that three-quarters of pre-1980 housing units contain some lead-based paint and that the likelihood, extent, and concentration of lead-based paint increase with the age of the building. In 1995, a federal task force on lead-based paint in the United States estimated that 6 percent to 16 percent of the nation's housing units contain lead-based paint hazards.

The most recognized health concern for lead exposure is neurotoxicity, especially when exposure occurs during pregnancy or childhood. Neurological effects include decreased IQ scores and reaction time, forgetfulness, impaired nerve conduction, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and weakness. Lead is 'reasonably anticipated' to be a human carcinogen based on kidney and nervous system tumors in laboratory animals (NTP 2002).

Occupational exposure to lead is associated with increased incidences of total malignant tumors, and cancers of the kidney, nervous system, and digestive and respiratory tracts. Other non-cancer effects associated with lead exposure include: gastrointestinal distress, anemia, increased blood pressure, altered heart rhythm, decreased fertility, decreased sperm counts and decreased immune function.

Exposure during developmental is associated with miscarriage, fetal death, decreased birth weight, reduced growth, lower IQ scores, irritability, behavioral problems, fatigue, poor balance and nerve conduction toxicity (ATSDR 1999).


Neurotoxic heavy metal linked to IQ deficits and behavioral problems. Found in dust from chipping lead paint in older homes, and in some tap water.

Lead has been found in 73 of the 73 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. It has also been found in 13,283 of the 13,895 people tested in CDC biomonitoring studies.

Results for Lead

in whole blood (wet weight)

Showing results from Pets Project, Pollution in Minority Newborns, Dateline NBC Families, Adult Minority Leader Report, EWG Study #6, consumer product chemicals in mothers and daughters, EWG/Commonweal Study #7, consumer product chemicals in adults and teens, Dateline NBC Families, Other Body Burden Studies, EWG/Commonweal Study #1, industrial chemicals and pesticides in adults

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 1.37 ug/dL (wet weight) in whole blood
  • found in 73 of 73 people in the group

CDC biomonitoring results

  • geometric mean: 1.33 ug/dL (wet weight) in whole blood
  • found in 7896 of 8373 people in the group
0.2 ug/dL (wet weight) in whole blood 68.9

Lead results