Health Effects: Lead can harm the kidneys, liver, nervous system and other organs. It may cause neurological impairments such as seizures, mental retardation and behavioral disorders. Even at low doses, lead is associated with damage to the nervous systems of fetuses and young children, resulting in lowered IQ and learning problems. Recent studies also show that lead may be a factor in high blood pressure and subsequent heart disease.
Environmental Effects: Lead can also be deposited on leaves of plants, presenting a hazard to grazing animals.
Sources: In the past, motor vehicles were the biggest source of lead. But since leaded gasoline has been phased out, lead emissions have decreased by about 98 percent. Today, metal processing is the biggest source of atmospheric lead. The highest air concentrations are found in the vicinity of ferrous and nonferrous smelters and battery manufacturers.