The purpose of UVM’s Lead Program is to prevent lead exposure to workers, students, children of students, visitors, and to help prevent the potential for building contamination from lead during demolition, maintenance, and renovation activities.

What is Lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring, soft, bluish-gray metal that is found in small amounts throughout the environment. Lead from mining and recycled scrap metal has a wide range of uses in industry. It is used in manufacturing ammunition, batteries, chemical compounds, explosives, glassware, metal products, and petroleum products to name a few. To prevent rust and corrosion, lead also is used in containers and pipes, and most bridges are painted with lead-based paint.

Lead can enter the body in two ways:

1) Through the Lungs

You can breathe in lead particles if they are in the air. This is how most workers are exposed to lead. When you breathe in lead particles, they enter the lungs and can be absorbed into the bloodstream throughout the body. Your body will quickly get rid of some of this lead, but the rest is stored in organs, tissues and bones.

2) Into the Digestive System

You can accidentally swallow lead particles if they come in contact with the food you eat or beverages you drink. This can happen if you leave food or drinks in your work area or if lead particles are on your hands when you touch food. Lead exposure can also occur when particles are absorbed in to skin, but this is very rare.

Lead Health Affects

If you are exposed to a large enough amount of lead, it can kill you in a matter of days. But this kind of short-term (acute) overexposure is very uncommon. Long-term (chronic) overexposure right away because lead can be stored in your body and released slowly. This could cause permanent damage to organs and body systems.

Symptoms of long-term overexposure to lead include…
•anxiety
•constipation
•dizziness
•headaches
•insomnia
•loss of appetite
•nausea
•weakness
•excessive tiredness
•colic numbness
•fine tremors
•hyperactivity
•muscle and joint soreness
•a metallic taste in the mouth

These symptoms and others can be signs of serious health problems which cause high blood pressure, anemia, birth defects, nervous, urinary and reproductive system disorders. Damage to the reproductive system can lead to infertility, birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth. Damage to the central nervous system – and brain in particular – is one of the most severe forms of lead poisoning. Long-term overexposure to lead can also lead to kidney disease with few, if any, symptoms appearing until extensive and most likely permanent damage has occurred.