Published on December 3, 2021

There is no safe level of lead, yet nearly 70% of GrassrootsHealth participants have detectable levels, and 20% have levels above the reference range. Here’s how to tell if lead exposure is affecting you.

Key Points

  • Approximately 20% of GrassrootsHealth participants who have tested their lead level as part of the PLUS Elements Panel had a result above the lab reference range; there is no safe level of lead
  • Lead is poisonous and can lead to problems all over the body, especially within the brain, and it is especially harmful for children, babies, and pregnant women
  • In the United States today, at least 4 million households with kids are exposed to high levels of lead, and nearly half a million children ages 1-5 have lead blood levels above 5 µg/dL; it is important to measure lead levels in the body and to know how lead exposure occurs in order to eliminate or minimize it

There is no safe level of lead in the body, yet nearly 70% of GrassrootsHealth participants who have tested their lead level (as part of the PLUS Elements panel blood spot test) have had detectable levels of lead in their blood (with a result of 1 ug/dL or higher). Approximately 20% of the participants who tested had levels above the lab reference range (greater than 2.23 μg/dL); the reference range indicates the range of typical results found in the population the lab serves but does not necessarily indicate the optimal range for health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5 µg/dL is considered the case classification of an elevated blood lead level, which is especially dangerous to pregnant women and children. Of participants who have tested their lead level through GrassrootsHealth since we began offering the test in the spring of 2019, 34 participants have had a level of 5 µg/dL or higher.

Any Level of Lead Could Harm Your Health

Lead is extremely poisonous and can lead to problems all over the body. It can accumulate over time and is stored in bone, blood, and tissues. Chronic, low-level lead exposure can affect the body’s cardiovascular, reproductive, and renal systems. Exposure can also reduce vitamin D and hemoglobin synthesis.

Short-term exposure to very high levels can cause abdominal pain, headaches, loss of appetite, weakness, and memory loss. During pregnancy, lead in bones can be released and passed from the mother’s body to the baby which may result in miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, learning or behavioral problems, or damage to the baby’s brain, kidneys, or nervous system.

Lead is particularly harmful to children because they absorb more lead than adults and their bodies are more vulnerable to its effects. In children, even low levels of lead in the blood can cause anemia, rashes, abdominal pain, loss of hearing, lower IQ, hyperactivity, and behavior and learning problems. Rarely, high levels of lead exposure in children can result in severe neurological defects, coma, or death.

The following video, What Does Lead Poisoning Do To Your Brain?, gives an excellent explanation of how lead can affect our health, with its most serious effects occurring in the brain.

Lead Exposure Remains an Issue in Many Areas

According to the CDC, in the United States today, at least 4 million households with kids are exposed to high levels of lead, and nearly half a million children ages 1-5 have lead blood levels above 5 µg/dL.

A study recently published by Hauptman et al. (September, 2021), evaluating lab data from 1,141,441 children ages 6 years or younger and living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia, found that more than half of the children had detectable levels of lead (with a lead level of greater than 1 µg/dL), and 2% had levels of 5.0 μg/dL or more.

How are You Exposed to Lead?

Lead is a metal from the earth’s crust that can be found in small amounts in the soil, water, and air. It has been used in numerous products such as paint, pipes, gasoline, batteries, cosmetics, jewelry, and ammunition. Lead can enter the environment from these sources or from current and former industrial facilities, especially those involved in mining or producing lead. With the discontinuation of lead-based paint and leaded gasoline in most countries, exposure to the general public has significantly declined.

Exposure to lead may occur by drinking water or eating food that contains lead. Using dishes or glasses that contain lead may also cause lead to be ingested. Lead can be inhaled, which is more readily absorbed by the body than when ingested. A common route for lead inhalation is during house construction projects in older homes if paint is disturbed or in buildings where lead-based paint is deteriorating. Additionally, working or participating in hobbies where lead is used, such as construction, lead glass making, soldering, or scrap metal recycling increase the risk of exposure. Children may have increased exposure because they are more likely to put their hands, toys, and dirt in their mouths. Multiple government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) develop and enforce regulations regarding lead in drinking water and consumer products. It is important to only buy and use regulated products.

Test Your Lead Level as Part of the Elements Panel

Measuring your level of lead and other toxic elements can help determine if you and your loved ones are being exposed, and if steps need to be taken to decrease that exposure and build-up in the body.  Decreasing toxic elements while having and maintaining healthy levels of essential elements, vitamin D, and other nutrients can help improve your health now and for your future. Choose which to measure, such as your vitamin D, omega-3s, and essential and toxic minerals including magnesium and iron, by creating your custom home test kit today. Take steps to improve the status of each of these measurements to benefit your overall health. You can also track your own intakes, symptoms and results to see what works best for YOU.

Enroll and test your levels today, learn what steps to take to improve your status of vitamin D (see below) and other nutrients and blood markers, and take action! By enrolling in the GrassrootsHealth projects, you are not only contributing valuable information to everyone, you are also gaining knowledge about how you could improve your own health through measuring and tracking your nutrient status, and educating yourself on how to improve it.

How Can You Use this Information for YOUR Health?

Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Measuring is the only way to make sure you are getting enough!

STEP 1 Order your at-home blood spot test kit to measure vitamin D and other nutrients of concern to you, such as omega-3s, magnesium, essential and toxic elements (zinc, copper, selenium, lead, cadmium, mercury); include hsCRP as a marker of inflammation or HbA1c for blood sugar health

STEP 2 Answer the online questionnaire as part of the GrassrootsHealth study

STEP 3 Using our educational materials and tools (such as our dose calculators), assess your results to determine if you are in your desired target range or if actions should be taken to get there

STEP 4 After 3-6 months of implementing your changes, re-test to see if you have achieved your target level(s)

Enroll in D*action and Build Your Custom Test Kit!