Environmental Health

Lead Overview

Lead is a bluish-gray, soft metallic element used in many household and industrial items from brass fixtures to batteries, and fine crystal to paint.  Following are some characteristics of lead:

  • Lead will not rust, oxidizes at an extremely slow rate, it will exist for a very long time in a solid state.
  • Lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in “alkyd” (oil based) paint. Note: “Latex” (water based) paint, generally does not contain lead.
  • Lead melts at a very low temperature and solidifies rapidly which makes it ideal for use in solder.
  • Lead cannot be penetrated by X-rays.
  • Lead is extremely malleable and can be drilled or sawn easily.
  • There is no economical metal heavier than lead.
  • Lead is not easily corroded and is ideal for car batteries and lining tanks which contain corrosive liquids. It is also used to protect metal wires and steel structures from corrosion.

Lead can be found in:

  • Soil: If the soil around your home is likely to be lead-contaminated, plant grass or other ground cover.  If lead-based paint is the source of soil contamination, most lead will be near painted surfaces such as exterior walls.  In such cases, plant bushes next to the house to keep children away.  If your soil is contaminated with lead, provide a sandbox with a solid bottom, top cover, and clean sand for your child to play and dig in. Wash children’s hands when they come inside from playing outdoors. To avoid tracking in lead from soil, clean shoes before entering home.   
  • Renovations and Remodeling: If your house was built prior to 1978, test the paint in your home before doing any renovation or remodeling of painted surfaces.  If lead is detected, take all necessary precautions to ensure that leaded paint is removed in a safe manner. 
  • Water: If the lead content in your tap water is higher than the drinking water standard, let the water run for several minutes before using it.  Use only fully-flushed water from the cold water tap for drinking and cooking. 
  • Food: Do not store food in open cans, especially imported cans.  Do not store or serve food in pottery that is meant for decorative use only.  Do not store wine or other alcoholic beverages in leaded crystal decanters or other lead crystal containers. 
  • Work or hobbies: If you or others in your family work with lead, make sure that any lead-contaminated clothing is handled safely and washed separately from household laundry.  Keep work areas away from any areas where children are present.  Use proper respiratory protection any time you are working with lead.
Lead Training and Certification

New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) regulations require certain individuals who conduct lead activities to be permitted. The regulations also establish certification standards for training providers who wish to teach any of the following six disciplines:

  • Workers for Housing and Public Buildings
  • Supervisors for Housing and Public Buildings
  • Workers for Commercial Buildings and Superstructures
  • Supervisors for Commercial Buildings and Superstructures
  • Planner/Project Designers
  • Inspector/Risk Assessors
Lead-based Paint Work

In NJ, lead-based paint work must be conducted by companies who possess either a lead Evaluation, Commercial Buildings and Superstructures, or Housing and Public Buildings contractor’s license (as appropriate) issued by the NJ Department of Community Affairs. All of the firm's employees who conduct lead-based paint activities must possess a permit issued by the NJ Department of Health.

Lead in Drinking Water

Lead pipes may still be found in parts of New Jersey where housing is more than 50 years old.

Lead in drinking water has no taste, odor, or color.

It is estimated that 20% or more of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water.

For more information, visit our page on drinking water and public health.


Renovation and Remodeling Activities

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978, must have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices. The EPA administers this program in New Jersey. If you have any questions or need to find more information about EPA’s requirements, please visit their Renovation, Repair and Painting Program page.

Training Agency Requirements

Training agencies who wish to conduct New Jersey lead training for workers and supervisors for housing and public buildings, workers and supervisors for commercial buildings and superstructures, inspector/risk assessors, and planner/project designers must be certified by the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH). For more information:

Lead Training Agency Certification

Individual Lead Permit Requirements

Individuals employed by licensed lead contractors must be permitted by the NJDOH. For information on discipline descriptions, education/experience requirements, and how to apply for a permit, go to the Lead Permit Requirements page.

Last Reviewed: 7/19/2023