What is Lead?

Lead is found in nature in the earth’s crust and surface. In small amounts lead has benefits but can be toxic to small humans and animals.

Where can I find lead in the Florence area?

Almost everywhere. Lead can found in our buildings, soil, water, dishware and even in the air when disturbed through remodeling and demolition. Our past use of leaded gasoline and lead paint has placed lead all over our habitats. It can be found in paint, pipes, ceramic, plaster, plumbing, solder, gasoline, batteries, ammunition and even in some cosmetics. Usually if we are exposed to lead it is due to exposure to one of these past uses.

Wide spread use of lead in the past has ended with a lot of emission of lead into the environment over time and still currently. Natural levels of lead in the soil range between 50 and 400 parts per million. However, mining, smelting, and refining sites has resulted in huge increases in lead levels in the environment.

When lead is put out into the air with emissions, it can be blown far before settling. It sticks to the soil and depending on the soil composition and the lead composition, it either stays where it landed or can enter the water table.

The government has implemented regulations to stop or decrease the use of lead in the home and commercial setting. This has helped however, living in Florence, where some buildings are older than these regulations, it is not uncommon to encounter lead.


Children are at increased risk of health hazard because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. A small amount of lead exposure can lead to detrimental effects. Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can cause seizures, coma or death. Babies and young children expose themselves to lead by putting their hands and other items that could be contaminated with lead into their mouth. Eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling or ingesting lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead paint are ways children get lead poisoning. Some health effects caused by lead exposure in children are:

  • Permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, and hearing problems
  • Slowed growth
  • Anemia

Adults may be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead. Inhalation of lead dust where lead-based paint is deteriorating or flaking, and during remodeling, repair work or demolition that disturbs painted surfaces in older buildings, such as homes, commercial or industrial facilities.


Since lead can cross the placenta in a pregnant mother’s blood stream, a fetus is at risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and prematurity if the mother has accumulated lead in her body. Lead is absorbed and stored in bone and when pregnant, is released into the circulation along with calcium to help build the fetal bones.