Why Lead?

Health Risks from Lead Exposure

There is no safe level of exposure to lead. It can cause serious health effects in all age groups, especially pregnant people, infants (both formula-fed and breastfed), and young children. Some of the health effects to infants and children include decreases in IQ and attention span. Lead exposure can also result in new or worsened learning and behavior problems. The children of persons who are exposed to lead before or during pregnancy may be at increased risk of these harmful health effects. Adults have increased risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney, or nervous system problems. 

Adapted from a statement that EPA is proposing drinking water systems use to communicate lead risks in its December 2023 improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule.

The evidence is strong enough that EPA quantifies the socioeconomic benefits on four health effects from reducing exposure to lead:

  • Fewer low-birth weight cases in babies;
  • Fewer attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cases;
  • Improved intelligence quotient (IQ) resulting in greater lifetime earnings; and
  • Reduced premature deaths from adult cardiovascular disease (CVD).