How Is Handling or Touching Lead Dangerous and Why Is Lead Toxic or Harmful to Children?

In general, just putting your hand on or touching lead won’t hurt you.

There are exceptions, like some cosmetics used in the Middle East that are absorbed through the skin, but mere skin contact is generally not a danger, unless you put your hands in your mouth or unless the lead touches something else and you put that in your mouth.

The problem is that children are inclined to do just that, and the hand is good at picking up fine lead particles.

Parents who come into contact with lead and then touch their children are a threat, and so are clothes that become contaminated with lead dust.

Vapors from molten lead are also harmful.

Lead is especially dangerous to children, for three reasons:

Their developing nervous systems are more vulnerable to harmful agents, they are subject to greater exposure because they put things in the mouth, and they absorb a great amount of lead for a given exposure.

Adults are at risk too, but at higher levels of exposure.

Several deaths have been reported in adults who drank moonshine contaminated by lead in old radiators used to build stills.

In terms of workers, the big exposures come from battery reclamation plants, secondary smelters, places where welding is done, like auto body shops, people taking paint off steel bridges, etc.

Home renovation jobs involving knocking down walls containing lead paint require special precautions, like using masks and wearing disposable or separately launderable clothes, so that the dust is not taken home to the family.

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