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What is lead?

Lead is naturally occurring metal and a powerful neurotoxin. Lead can cause many different types of health problems in both people and wildlife. Everyone has some exposure to lead, and harmful effects can occur from relatively common everyday exposures. While exposure to lead-based paint is the most frequent cause of lead poisoning in children, there are many other sources of lead from past and current uses.

Lead CAP
The Washington Departments of Ecology and Health are recommending actions to protect human health and the environment from lead in the Lead Chemical Action Plan (CAP). The Lead CAP was developed with the valuable help of other agencies and a diverse group of stakeholders. The Lead CAP Advisory Committee, which consisted of 18 members representing various stakeholder groups, met six times between July 2007 and May 2008 while Ecology and DOH developed the Lead CAP.

The Lead CAP was developed to identify the dangers of lead, where it can be found in the environment, describe how people and animals are exposed and recommend ways to reduce its harm. The Lead CAP is a planning tool to guide statewide efforts. It is not a new law or regulation.

Recommendations and actions
  • Lead paint
    While all the recommendations are important, addressing lead-based paint in older homes is the top priority. Children are the largest and most vulnerable group affected by lead, and lead-based paint is the most frequent cause of childhood lead poisoning.
  • Wheel weights
    Because of its density, low cost, and malleability, lead has been used in wheel weights worldwide since the 1930s to balance vehicle tires. As of January 1st, 2011, a person who replaces or balances motor vehicle tires in Washington must use non-lead wheel weights. Click here for more information on wheel weights.
  • Ammunition
    Because of its toxic effects and widespread use, lead ammunition is among the items listed in the CAP. The CAP does not include any recommendations to ban or regulate lead in any type of ammunition beyond current law. Click here for more information on lead ammunition.