Information For Workers


If you work near products or materials that contain lead, it can get inside your body. If you are exposed to too much lead, it can be toxic.  There are ways you can protect yourself and your family from lead, which can cause health problems.

How You Can Be Exposed To Lead

You can be exposed to lead by breathing it in, swallowing it, or absorbing it through your skin.

Breathing lead dust and fumes
  • Lead fumes and lead dust do not have an odor and may not be seen in the air, so you may not know you are being exposed.
  • Lead fumes are produced during metal processing when metal is heated or soldered. Lead dust is produced when metal is being cut or ground, or when lead paint is sanded or removed with a heat gun. It can also be produced by firing handguns and rifles.
  • Your body absorbs higher levels of lead when it is breathed in compared to swallowing it or absorbing it through your skin. Lead fume particles are smaller than lead dust; this means lead fumes can penetrate deeper into your lungs, resulting in higher exposure.
Swallowing lead dust
  • Lead dust may not be noticeable. It can settle on food, water, clothes, and other objects.
  • If you eat, drink, or smoke in areas where lead is being processed or stored, you could swallow lead dust without knowing. You can also swallow lead dust if you don’t wash your hands before you eat or touch your mouth.
  • Lead can leave a metallic taste in your mouth, though some people may not notice this.
Absorbing lead through the skin
  • Some studies have found that lead can be absorbed through skin.[1]
  • Absorption can also happen if you handle items contaminated with lead and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Lead dust on your clothes, shoes, or hair can be hard to notice.

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [2007] Toxicological profile for Lead (update) [http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp13.pdfpdf icon (PDF 4.8 MB, 582 pages)] Public Health Service Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Protect Yourself From Lead

If you work with lead, your employer is required to minimize your exposure. There are also ways you can reduce the amount of lead that gets into your body. You can also take steps to keep lead out of your home and car.

Check Lead Levels in Your Blood

Talk with your employer to see if they do routine Blood Lead Level (BLL) testing. The BLL test is a simple blood test that measures the amount of lead in your blood. If your employer does not do routine BLL testing, talk with your healthcare provider about having this test done. If your blood levels are high, you can take steps to protect yourself and your family and household.

If you are breastfeeding, consult your baby’s pediatrician to decide if you should have a BLL test. Ask them to help you understand your BLL test results.

Share You Concerns
Protect Your Family And Household From Work-related Lead

If your workplace contains lead, you may be bringing it home to your family and household. Lead poisoning has occurred in children whose parents accidentally brought home lead dust on their clothing, shoes, and in their cars. Lead dust on your clothing or belongings can be swallowed, touched, or breathed in by those who live with you. You may also be tracking lead dust into your vehicle; if it is contaminated with lead from work, anyone who rides in it will be exposed.

Don’t take lead home with you! It’s easier to keep lead out of your home or car than to clean them. Cleaning up lead is hard and can be expensive.

Before work
  • Anything you take to work can get lead on it.
  • Bring as little as possible to work.
  • Consider bringing food and water in disposable containers.
At home
  • Never wear shoes in your home that you wore at work. Take off work shoes outside the home and store them in a closed plastic bag.
  • If you can’t shower at work, shower as soon as you get home.
  • Clean your vehicle and your home often. For hard floors and furniture, use wet cleaning methods. For carpets and fabrics, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
  • When cleaning up lead, use separate cleaning supplies than you use in the rest of the home. This will keep lead from spreading throughout your home.
At the healthcare provider’s office
  • If your work doesn’t test your blood for lead, tell your healthcare provider you work with lead and ask if you should be tested.
  • Make sure everyone in your household tells their healthcare provider they live with someone who works with lead. Healthcare providers especially need to know if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, and if children live or spend time in your household.
Health Problems Caused By Lead

Your body does not need lead to survive. If lead gets inside your body, it can cause many health problems. No safe level of lead has been identified.  

If you work near products or materials that contain lead, it can get inside your body. If you are exposed to too much lead, it can be toxic.