Public Lab Wiki documentation

Lead (Pb)

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Lead is a heavy metal that is common in our everyday environment. Historically it has been used in paints, pipes (including connectors/fittings), and gasoline among other places. Today, most industrial uses are limited to lead-acid batteries, a growing market.

Lead is known toxin. There are no safe levels of lead for humans; any amount is a bad amount.

Health effects range from mild health irritations and decreased fertility at low amounts, lower IQ and emotional/behavioral issues in milder amounts, and seizures, coma, and even death at higher amounts.

Top exposure pathways (aka: sources of lead) include:

  • Paint
  • Soil
  • Dust, created by soil or paint
  • Water / Plumbing

Lead may be in toys, cosmetics, food containers, and other places, but the above are the top 4 pathways. Paint is generally recognized as the primary source of lead. People talk quite a bit about lead in water, in part because of the crisis in Flint Michigan. Soil is a pathway that gets less attention; however, there is growing evidence that soil -- and in particular the dust that gets kicked up -- is a significant source of lead.

How to test for lead in your home or community

  • Test it yourself: Buy a product off the shelf
    • pros: This is probably the quickest path to testing.
    • cons: The results may not be reliable.
  • Test it yourself: DIY / Hacker methods
    • pros: Good for citizen scientists and teachers.
    • cons: Actually these don’t exist yet :( Help us create them!
  • Get a professional to do it
    • pros: Gets the most reliable results.
    • cons: can be slow/annoying if you’re working with your local gov’t or expensive if you’re paying a private company)
  • Partner with a local college / university
    • pros: Can be low-cost, allow for bulk testing, and help build important relationships
    • cons: Takes time to build relationships
  • Use a mail-in service
    • pros: Uses reliable testing methods done by professionals
    • cons: May not be as fast as testing yourself, costs money

Science / Regulations + Addressing the Issue

Research Notes on Related to this Topic

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
Event Recap: Environmental Storytelling - Stories from the Field @fongvania about 2 years ago 0
Monitoring High-Rise Construction on a State Remediation Site @marinaraHQ about 2 years ago 0
Water testing protocols for Sulfide Mining? @Greenhorns almost 3 years ago 1
Proposed Wolfden Mine at Pickett Mountain @Greenhorns about 3 years ago 5
Friday April 23: Unhealthy Homes Lead Advocacy Panel @kgradow1 about 3 years ago 1
Soil testing at a massive construction site in the Lower East Side @bhamster about 3 years ago 1
Risks of PAH exposure from contaminated dust? @kgradow1 over 3 years ago 7
What tests are recommended to check for toxicity levels in the home? @lahoyaq8 about 4 years ago 3
Article comparing the effectiveness of recently passed lead exposure reduction laws @liz over 4 years ago 1
Evaluating Low-cost Lead Screening Products @read_holman over 4 years ago 3
How to interpret soil test results @DanielleS about 5 years ago 0
How to Test For Lead in your Environment @read_holman about 5 years ago 3
Using the Wheestat in a real time device @klplum over 5 years ago 0
Soil Contaminant Testing @DanielleS over 5 years ago 10
Seeking GIS / Data folks: Help us create a nation Lead Exposure Risk map. @read_holman over 5 years ago 7
Partnering with a Local College for Environmental Testing @read_holman over 5 years ago 0
Chemical/Analytical Methods Used When Testing for Lead @read_holman about 5 years ago 6
Treating policy as code @liz over 5 years ago 3
Crowdsourcing lead testing in NYC parks and playgrounds @smmontgom over 5 years ago 5
Help us test public water fountains in NYC for lead!? @read_holman over 5 years ago 11
Designing a soil sampling tool kit for community science /environmental justice applications @jjcreedon about 6 years ago 6

Questions posted on Related to this Topic