Lead-Containing Materials

Lead is a chemical element which can be found in numerous building materials in its elemental form or as lead compounds: lead sheeting, lead-acid batteries, in paints as pigments, weights, as part of solders, fusible alloys, and as a radiation shield. If left intact, lead-containing materials (LCM) do not pose health risks. Damage to paints, sheeting materials, or misuse of weights (such as for door stops) can leave lead contamination behind increasing the chances of an exposure. Lead dusts can be inhaled if disturbed and get in the air.

Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys and reproductive and nervous systems. Symptoms include abdominal pain, confusion, headache, anemia, irritability, and in severe cases, seizures, coma and death.

UW personnel need to be aware of the hazards exposure to lead poses and the ways to either eliminate or control those hazards. One way of controlling hazards is to use procedures or develop strategies to work with LCM in as safe a manner as possible.

For more information, contact EH&S at ehsdept@uw.edu or (206)543-7262.