Lead (Pb) is a basic chemical element, which can be combined with other substances to form lead compounds. A bluish-white metal of bright luster, lead is very soft, highly malleable, ductile, has a low melting point and is resistant to corrosion. These characteristics brought lead into common usage, even in ancient times. The ancient Egyptians used lead for sculpture, dishes, jewelry and sinkers for fishing nets. During the days of the Roman Empire, lead was used in shipbuilding, cooking pots, for weights and to line water supply lines. In fact, lead pipes bearing the insignia of early Roman emperors, used as drains for the baths, are still in service today.

In modern times manufacturers have used lead in a variety of products, some of which have included: gasoline, paint, plumbing, fine crystal, electric cable insulation, storage batteries, ammunition and insecticides. However, lead, which throughout history has been one of man’s most useful and versatile metals, is one of man’s oldest known poisons. Due to increased awareness and growing concern about the devastating health hazard lead poses, the United States federal government began placing restrictions on the use of lead in some products, including gasoline, insecticides and paint in housing, in the 1970s.

Today, lead poisoning is the leading environmental health risk in America, particularly in young children. The most common source of lead poisoning is lead-contaminated dust. This dust, which can be so tiny that it is invisible to the naked eye, becomes airborne and surface adherent, making it easily accessible, especially for young children, to ingest and/or inhale.