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Lead Safety

A person in a full tyvek suit, safety helmet, half respirator and gloves places lead caution tape over a door.

Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals, causing health effects. The use of lead dates as far back as Roman times when it was used for pipes, pewter, paint and even as a sweetening ingredient for wine. In the past, lead has been used in insecticides, hair dyes, paint and as an anti-knocking additive for petrol. All these uses have now been banned, replaced or discouraged as lead is known to be detrimental to health, particularly that of children. Excessive exposure to lead can cause health issues in adults such as high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems and muscle or joint pain.

At ISU, lead is found in:

  • painted surfaces in older buildings
  • porcelain wall and floor tiles in older buildings, and 
  • radiation shielding (lead bricks, etc.) 

When handling lead, use good hygiene and personal protective equipment such as chemical protective gloves and protective clothing. Washing your hands and face after handling lead can prevent lead particles from entering your body or spreading it to others and the environment.

Lead is regulated by OSHA and the EPA.

OSHA regulates  the use and handling of lead designed to protect workers.

The OSHA Lead Construction Standard regulates lead exposure to construction workers. 

The OSHA Lead General Standard Industry standard regulates non-construction exposure to lead.

OSHA Lead in Construction Pamphlet and the OSHA Lead in Construction Fact Sheet provide a quick overview of what lead is and how you can protect yourself.

The EPA regulates lead exposures to the public and the environment. 

EPA’s 2008 Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule (as amended in 2010 and 2011), regulates renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978. These activities can create hazardous lead dust when surfaces with lead paint, even from many decades ago, are disturbed. The rule requires workers to be certified and trained in the use of lead-safe work practices, and requires renovation, repair, and painting firms to be EPA-certified. The RRP rule is  focused on focused on protecting children below the age of 6, pregnant mothers and the public from the hazards associated with exposures to lead-based paint.

You can find more information on EPA’s EPA Lead website for information on EPA lead regulations and programs, including the RRP program.


If you believe that there is a potential for lead exposure in your employment or academic work, consult with your supervisor or call the EHS Department at (208) 282-2310. 

If your work involves the handling of lead shielding, utilize the ISU Safe Use of Lead Shielding Procedures.

Lead contaminated waste may be considered a hazardous waste and is managed through the ISU hazardous waste program.

EHS provides the following lead safety services.

  • Regulatory and safety guidance on activities that may disturb lead or lead-based paint materials.
  • Air monitoring to ensure employees are not being over exposed to lead as defined by OSHA
  • OSHA lead safety training
  • Identifiaction of lead based paint building materials

ISU is an EPA RRP registered firm and has personnel trained and certified in the EPA RRP Rules to address lead-based paint renovation and repair work.

Contact the EHS Asbestos/Industrial Hygienist Specialist for a list of regional Authorized EPA RRP Trainers or for other questions on lead safety.