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Lead is a heavy metal, denser than most common materials. Lead is soft and malleable with a relatively low melting point. It is regulated by The Control of Lead at Work (CLAW) Regulations 2002​.

Why this substance is hazardous​

Lead (Pb) is a known neurotoxin and can pose other significant chronic health effects, such as reproductive and digestive problems, memory and concentration problems, muscle and joint pain.​

Lead cannot be absorbed through the skin but will enter the system through ingestion and inhalation. ​

Lead can pass from the mother to the unborn child during pregnancy, and can cause miscarriage, premature births, damage to the child’s brain, kidneys and nervous system and learning or behaviour problems.​


Lead-based paint was used until the 1960s in the UK as it was useful for providing tint, opaque colour, and producing a water resistance and durable finish. However, in the UK and EU lead paint is now only used for the restoration and maintenance of works of art. The restriction of lead in paint is not global and although The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint endorses a 90 ppm total lead content limit.​

Dust from renovations: When sanding for repainting, or when plaster crumbles, there may be lead-based paint dust included in the debris.​

Lead flashing on roofs: Lead may be found on old roofs and required for conservation reasons as it is still considered one of the better materials as it is flexible, good sealant, it has greater longevity than most other materials and it can be recycled easily. ​

Lead solder: A lead / tin mix can be used to solder electronics. The fumes produced allow the lead to enter the body through the respiratory system.​

Recommended control measures​

Certain lead compounds are controlled substances (Poison  UCL ref PA008) – see information on standards for all controlled chemicals. 


  • There is lead-free solder available, check the lead content before ordering paint. ​
  • Avoid disturbing the source and prevent dust formation to lower the risk from inhalation. Test areas before sanding down as the lead paint maybe a couple of layers down from the current surface.​


  • Remove lead fumes, only use in well-ventilated areas and when possible use a point of source local exhaust ventilation which can be integrated into the soldering rig.​
  • Use lower temperatures and consider work methods that do not require heat.​

​Avoid Contamination ​

  • As a known route is through ingestion, wear gloves and wash hands when stopping work and before welfare breaks. Use coveralls or other PPE that prevents dust or liquids being transferred outside the work areas. Disposable items are preferred​
  • RPE should have a protection factor of 20 (FFP3 or P3). If work is over 15 mins in duration consider the use of powered RPE​

Health surveillance ​

Lead levels are measured from a blood sample. Health surveillance is required for all planned work when lead exposure is a known risk, to ensure that the controls are working.

Chemical safety library

> Read more about control measures for chemicals in our chemical safety library

Last updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020