Sources of Lead

Protect children from exposure to lead in metal and plastic toys, especially some imported toys, antique toys, and toy jewelry. Childhood lead exposure is preventable. (Lead Hazards in Toys, CDC)

Toys made in other countries and older painted toys passed down through generations are more likely to contain lead paint. Other items that can contain lead include keys, children's jewelry, some imported plastic mini-blinds, and other imported products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issues recalls for products that contain lead.

Regularly check the Consumer Safety Product Commission (CSPC) recalls list to ensure no toys or jewelry your child owns has been recalled due to a lead issue. Recalls |

Lead-based paint is a common source of lead contamination. Lead paint was widely used in homes up until the 1950s and was not banned for residential use until 1978. Lead paint is still found in many older homes today.

Lead paint in poor condition contaminates the home as it falls apart or deteriorates. Lead paint chips and lead dust are created when there are:

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

Lead can contaminate household dust when lead-based paint is deteriorated or disturbed. Lead dust can collect in windowsills, troughs, floors, carpets, furniture, and ventilation filters. It can also get on children's hands, toys, bottles, and pacifiers. Frequent house cleaning and hand washing can help prevent children from swallowing or breathing in lead dust.

The soil around a house, garage, or fence could be contaminated by lead paint or industrial pollution. Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.

This illustration shows a common arrangement where the water system (utility) and the property owner (customer) each own part of the service line on their property. The actual arrangement may differ across places.

How does lead get into drinking water?

Lead may work its way into drinking water after the water enters the distribution system and is on its way to consumer's taps. This usually happens through the corrosion of materials containing lead in household plumbing. These materials include brass faucets, lead solder on copper pipes, lead pipes, or lead service lines connecting the water main to the indoor plumbing. You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water. The best way to know your risk of exposure to lead in drinking water is to identify the potential sources of lead in your service line and household plumbing. Taking action to get your water tested will help you reduce the exposure and improve health outcomes. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.

EPA banned the use of solder used in copper plumbing in June of 1986. In January 2014, the EPA enacted its Lead-Free Act banning the use of lead in all plumbing fixtures and service lines used to deliver potable drinking water. If your residence was built after either of these dates, the risk of lead exposure from your household plumbing is reduced.

In South Dakota and nationally, there are efforts to determine whether lead was used in the service line to your home. You can learn more about the service line check here.

What can I do to reduce my exposure to lead in drinking water?

Since lead exposure in drinking water typically comes from your plumbing fixtures and not the source of your water supply, unless you know your service line and plumbing fixtures are lead-free, it's important for both public drinking water customers as well as private well water users to follow these tips to reduce your exposure to lead.

  • Run your water to flush out lead. If water hasn't been used for several hours, run water for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes out any stagnant water in your home plumbing and replaces it with fresh water from the water main in your street.
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap, lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Test your water for lead. Contact your water system for more information about getting your water tested or to request sample bottles for testing of water supplies, from the South Dakota Public Health Laboratory, please complete and submit this form Public Water Supply Testing - SD Dept. of Health. Fee information for the various tests is also provided. Questions can be directed to the Lab's mail room at 605-773-3368.

What are the health effects of exposure to lead in drinking water?

EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. The maximum contaminant level is a goal, but the action level for EPA is 15 parts of lead per billion parts of water (ppb) for public water systems. At 15 ppb or greater, a public water system must take action to reduce the amount of lead in the water distributed to the customer.

Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. Even low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.

For more information on lead in drinking water, please visit:

Workers can bring lead home with them from their workplace. It can contaminate a child's environment. Adults exposed to lead on the job can also be lead poisoned. Workers should take extra precautions if they work in any of these jobs or worksites involving lead:

  • Abatement and cleanup of residential and commercial buildings, steel structures, or environmental sites
  • Demolition of buildings and structures built before 1978
  • Fabrication of artistic or individual products (e.g., mixing or applying leaded ceramic glaze, glasswork, and stained glass windows)
  • Manufacturing of products containing or coated with lead (e.g., metal equipment parts, batteries, bullets, circuits)
  • Melting of products containing lead (e.g., secondary smelting [scrap metal], incinerators, foundries/casting)
  • Industrial mineral processing activities, such as mining, extraction, or smelting
  • Painting or sanding on industrial equipment and steel structures (e.g., bridges and water towers)
  • Recycling materials (e.g., stripping electronics)
  • Repair, renovation, remodeling, and/or painting of residential and commercial buildings
  • Use of firearms or working at a firing range (e.g., law enforcement, military, private industry, and training)
  • Welding and cutting (small-scale melting)
  • Auto repairers (car parts may contain lead)
  • Battery manufacturers (batteries contain lead)
  • Lead miners, refiners and smelters

Some hobbies that could introduce lead into the home include those that work with:

  • Casting or soldering (e.g., bullets, fishing weights, stained glass)
  • Mixing or applying glaze or pigments containing lead
  • Conducting home renovation, repair, remodeling, or painting (in structures built prior to 1978)
  • Reloading bullets

Lead has been found in some traditional and folk remedies from other countries. Lead can be found in powders and tablets given for arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, colic, and other illnesses. Consuming complementary, alternative, or traditional medicines or using cosmetics or ceremonial powders that may contain lead.

Health remedies from Asia that could contain lead include Daw Tway, Paylooah, Bali Goli, and Kandu. Health remedies used in Hispanic cultures that can contain lead include Azarcon, Alarcon, Greta, Rueda, and Maria Luisa.

To learn more visit: Lead in Foods, Cosmetics, and Medicines | Sources of Lead | CDC

Some spices bought in or sent from South Asia and the country of Georgia can contain high levels of lead. Some of these spices include curry, turmeric, masala, and chili powder. Spices purchased abroad are more likely to have high lead levels than similar products sold in the United States. To reduce the risk of lead exposure, buy your spices locally.

To learn more visit: Lead in Foods, Cosmetics, and Medicines | Sources of Lead | CDC

Lead has been found in some candies imported from Mexico, especially those made with tamarind or chili powder.

To learn more visit: Lead in Foods, Cosmetics, and Medicines | Sources of Lead | CDC

Lead can be present in some antique or imported glazed ceramics, pottery, and dishware. Avoid using imported pottery, dishware, and ceramics for storing or cooking food and drinks if you don't know if they contain lead. Some imported pottery labeled lead-free may still contain lead.