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Lead, Inorganic

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is lead?

Lead is one of the oldest elements known to man and is characterized as a soft, malleable blue gray metal that has a relatively low melting point. Lead is used in the manufacture of items such as, but not limited to, ammunition, surface coatings, lead acid batteries, and solder.

What are the hazards associated with exposure to lead?

Exposure to lead can occur by inhalation of particulates (dust and fumes) or by ingestion of contaminated food and drink due to poor housekeeping and handwashing practices. Lead is a systemic poison that mainly affects the nervous system, but can also affect the reproductive system, kidneys and the hematopoietic (blood forming) system. In addition, lead that cannot be readily excreted from the body is stored in the bone marrow.

Is there a special emphasis program associated with this topic?

Occupational exposure to lead falls within the OSH Division health hazards special emphasis program.



What can I do to protect myself?

Adequate ventilation, preferably local exhaust ventilation, should be used when heating lead or lead-containing materials or when otherwise removing lead-containing materials by mechanical means.

Proper handwashing with soap and running water should be performed after working with lead-containing materials and before consumption of food and drink. 

Employers are required to provide workers engaged in the use of lead or removal of lead containing coatings or any other lead materials with the appropriate type of respirator until an exposure assessment determines that exposure levels are below the permissible exposure limit.

What resources are available to assist employers?

More resources can be found on the A-Z topics pages for personal protective equipment, hazard communication, silica and respiratory protection. The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. Lastly, the consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.



Which standards apply?

OSh had adopted the folowing standard for lead in North Carolina:

Other standards that apply, or may apply, to occupational exposure to lead are:

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to or by calling 919-707-7876.