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Lead Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is part of a series of chemical fact sheets developed by TURI to help Massachusetts companies, community organizations and residents understand the chemical's use and health and environmental effects, as well as the availability of safer alternatives. Since Massachusetts companies report usage under the Toxics Use Reduction Act, readers will learn how the chemicals are being used and by which companies.

Lead is a natural, bluish-gray metal that possesses the general physical properties of other metals as a conductor of electricity and heat. Manufacturers use lead in many different products such as batteries, metal products, cables, ceramic glazes, pigments, and ammunition. Lead is a well-established human and environmental hazard.

In 2004, Massachusetts manufacturers used more than 3.5 million pounds of lead and lead compounds.

Studies on male workers using lead have reported severe depression of sperm count and decreased function of the prostate and/or seminal vesicles at blood lead levels of 40 to 50 μg/dL. Occupational exposure to high levels of lead has been associated with a high likelihood of spontaneous abortion in pregnant women. Exposure to lead during pregnancy produces toxic effects on the human fetus, including increased risk of preterm delivery, low birthweight, and impaired mental development.

Learn more about Lead health effects, use in Massachusetts, and alternatives here.