The most common sources of lead poisoning in adults is lead-contaminated dust found in work environments. In July of 1786, Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend (“The Famous Franklin Letter On Lead Poisoning”) of a Paris hospital, which was famous for the cure of a malady called the “dry-bellyache” or colica pictonum. He observed a pamphlet that contained a list of names, specifying their professions, of people who had been treated there.

Of this matter Franklin wrote, “I had the Curiosity to examine that List, and found that all the Patients were of Trades that some way or other use or work in Lead; such as Plumbers, Glasiers, Painters, &c. excepting only two kinds, Stonecutters and Soldiers. These I could not reconcile to my Notion that Lead was the Cause of that Disorder. But on my mentioning this Difficulty to a Physician of that Hospital, he inform’d me that the Stonecutters are continually using melted Lead to fix the Ends of Iron Balustrades in Stone; and that the Soldiers had been employ’d by Painters as Labourers in Grinding Colours.”

We now know Franklin’s observations were correct. A worker can be lead-intoxicated by breathing in lead-contaminated dust from his work activities and from ingesting leaded dust by eating, drinking or smoking on the work site.

Some lead related jobs and work environments include:

  • battery manufacturing
  • automotive parts manufacturing
  • automotive repair
  • firing ranges
  • carpentry
  • chemical manufacturing
  • smelting & refining of nonferrous metals
  • plumbing
  • glass productions
  • demolition work
  • leaded paint abatement
  • brass/copper foundry
  • iron working*

*Bridge, tunnel & elevated highway construction valve & pipe fitting 

Some lead related hobbies include:

  • making stained glass
  • making pottery
  • gun & rifle activities
  • refinishing furniture
  • renovating & remodeling homes
  • making fishing lures & sinkers


If you have a lead related job or hobby, you need to take certain precautions to reduce your, and your family’s, risk of lead poisoning. Do not eat, drink or smoke in a work area. Be sure to wash your hands and face before eating, drinking or smoking. Keep the work area clean. Use a vacuum with a high efficiency filter (HEPA) and wet clean with a lead-specific detergent to keep your work area and home lead-safe. For more information on lead-specific detergents, click here.
If you work in a lead related industry or environment that could cause you occupational lead exposure, your employer should be aware of and follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Lead Standard. This rule was developed to protect workers from unnecessary lead exposure in their jobs. For more information on the Lead Standard, call OSHA at 202-219-5000.