County Health Department Reminds People of Dangers of Lead Poisoning

OSWEGO – Over the past several months there have been many reports  regarding lead in public water supplies in Michigan, Ohio and other areas of the U.S.

While these reports have increased public awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning, the Oswego County Health Department reminds people that exposure to  lead can come from a variety of sources.

“Most often, children get lead poisoning from breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors and windowsills, hands and toys,” said Jodi Martin, supervising public health nurse for the Oswego County Health Department. “Adults can also get lead poisoning, especially through contact with lead in certain jobs or hobbies, or when disturbing lead paint during remodeling projects. Other sources of lead can include fishing tackle, children’s toys and jewelry, lead-glazed ceramics, dust, and many other substances.”

Lead paint:

Lead-based paint becomes a concern when it chips, turns into dust, or gets into the soil. Lead was used in paint to add color, improve the ability of the paint to hide the surface it covers, and to make it last longer. In 1978 the federal government banned lead paint for use in homes. Homes built before 1978 probably contain lead-based paint. Painted toys and furniture made before 1978 may also contain lead-based paint.

Fishing and other activities:

Hobbies that may use lead products include fishing, hunting, making pottery, stained glass, or refinishing furniture. Anglers who make their own fishing sinkers or hunters who make their own bullets can be exposed to lead if they are careless about preventing contamination.

“Fishing tackle, especially sinkers and jig heads, often contains lead,” said Martin. “The state Department of Health advises anglers to never bite down on lead sinkers or put them in your mouth, and to wash hands with soap and water after holding or using lead sinkers, jig heads. or reloading lead bullets or shot.”

Martin noted that it’s illegal to sell lead fishing sinkers 1/2-ounce or less in New York State, but anglers and divers sometimes recover lead sinkers from river and lake bottoms for their own use.

Lead in drinking water:

Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household or building plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome plated brass faucets, and in some cases, pipes made of lead that connect houses and buildings to water mains. In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2 percent lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8 percent. Older construction may still have plumbing that has the potential to contribute lead to drinking water.

Symptoms of lead poisoning:

Elevated levels of lead in the blood can be determined through a blood test. Lead poisoning can be difficult to detect because signs and symptoms often don’t appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated.
Symptoms of lead poisoning  in children include developmental delays, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation and hearing loss. In adults, symptoms may include high blood pressure, abdominal pain, constipation, joint pains, muscle pain, declines in mental functioning, pain in extremities, headaches and mood disorders.

The Oswego County Health Department can help families find and reduce sources of lead in the home and arrange for lead testing.

For more information, call the County Health Department at 315-349-3547.

For more information on lead poisoning, visit