Common Sources of Lead in the Home- EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Common Sources of Lead

On this page:
Lead dust
Lead-based paint
Lead in Soil
Lead in Food
Lead in Water
Lead in Folk medicine

Lead is found in the air, soil, dust and paint inside or outside of some homes and other buildings built before 1978. Too much lead exposure can cause serious health problems, but fortunately, lead poisoning can be prevented. See bellow common sources of lead in the home and how to avoid them.

Lead Dust

Your house can look clean and still have lead in it. Household dust is a common source of lead exposure for young children because they can breathe in or eat it. The dust can contain lead from interior lead-based paint or tracked-in, contaminated soil. Lead dust can also be created during home remodeling or renovation projects or when lead-based paint is not removed safely.

  • Keep your home as dust-free as possible. Wet wash window wells, sills and floors following the instructions on Cleaning Up Sources of Lead in the Home.
  • Wash your child's hands with soap and water before eating, naps and bedtime.
  • Wash bottles, teething rings and toys with soap and water.
  • Do not allow children to play or eat around window areas in older homes.
  • Adults working in jobs where lead is used should shower, and change clothes and shoes before coming home. This includes painters, remodelers, or workers in smelters, battery plants, and radiator or auto body shops.
  • Clothes worn at work should not be washed with other clothes. Clean work clothes separately from other clothing. Run the rinse cycle once before using the washer again. See Take-home Lead for more information.
  • Keep windows closed on windy days so that lead-contaminated soil does not get into the house.

Lead-Based Paint

Eating cracking, chipping and peeling lead-based paint is also a source of lead exposure for young children. Lead paint was used on the inside and outside of homes until 1978. Lead-based paint may also be on cribs, highchairs, windows, woodwork, walls, doors, railings and ceilings. The following precautions can help you and your family avoid exposure to lead-based paint:

  • Painting over chipping or peeling lead-based paint does not make it safe! You must first safely remove chipping or peeling lead-based paint before repainting.
  • Don't let your child eat or chew on anything you think may contain lead-based paint. Look for teeth marks on the woodwork in your home.
  • Be sure to wet wash the windows often (as described above). Loose paint and dust can build up inside and under the window area.
  • Do not use your household vacuum to clean up paint chips or leaded dust. The filter in your household vacuum cleaner is not designed to pick up and hold small particles of lead. Using a regular vacuum cleaner will spread lead dust into the air.


Soil can be contaminated with lead from deteriorated exterior paint on buildings or fences. As the result of past use of leaded gasoline, lead can also be found in the soil near major roadways or intersections in urban areas. Neither of these places are safe play areas for a child.

The following precautions are recommended to keep your child safe from lead in soil:

  • Don't let your child eat outside on bare soil areas, eat dirt, or play next to the house or the street where bare soil is present.
  • Cover bare soil (any soil you can see) with grass, mulch, shrubs, or another kind of durable ground cover.
  • Keep washable rugs at all of the entrances to your home. Wash these rugs separately from other items. Run the rinse cycle once before using the washer again.
  • Take your shoes off at the door so soil and dust are not tracked into the house.


Plants usually do not absorb lead unless there is a large amount of lead in the soil. To be safe, wash fruits and vegetables before eating to clean off any lead dust that may have settled on it. Remove the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables before eating. Do not store juices or food in open cans. Store food in glass, stainless steel or sturdy plastic containers.

It is also recommended that you plant gardens away from the house, garage, fence or other structures covered with chipping paint.


Lead levels in your water are likely to be highest if your home or water system has lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder. Plumbing put in before 1930 may contain lead pipes. Plumbing installed before 1985 may contain lead-based solder in the copper joints in the water supply system. Brass faucets and ball valves may contain lead. Minnesota banned the use of lead-based solder in 1985.

The only way to know if your water (or other lead source) has lead in it is to have it tested by a certified lab. Contact MDH for the name of an approved lab in your area.

If you think you may 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. If you need hot water, heat cold water from the tap or the refrigerator.
  • Let your water run before using it. If you have a lead service line, let the water run for 3-5 minutes or use a filter. If you do not have a lead service line, let the water run for 30-60 seconds. The more time water hsa been sitting in your home's pipes, the more lead it may contain.

Folk Medicine

Many folk remedies contain lead and should not be used. Please talk to your doctor if you are using any of the following folk remedies that may contain lead:

  • alarcon
  • alkohl
  • azarcon
  • bali gali
  • bint al zahab
  • cora
  • greta
  • farouk
  • ghasard
  • kandu
  • kohl
  • liga
  • lozeena
  • pay-loo-ah
  • surma
Updated Friday, 03-Dec-2021 11:33:27 CST