Lead is among the six common air pollutants that impact air quality in America, according to the EPA. The others are particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and sulfur dioxide.

Once upon a time, unleaded gasoline used in vehicles was the biggest source of lead in the air. However, over a period of two decades from 1980 to 1999, the EPA managed to bring down lead pollution from the transportation sector by 95 percent. Today, the most common sources of lead emissions include lead smelters, metal processing units, waste processing units and lead-acid battery manufacturers.

Lead can enter the human system via drinking water and food, and also through lead-based paints that were used in older constructions dating back to before 1978.

If a home or building was built before 1960, then there is a 70 percent chance the paint used contained lead. Lead pipes and lead solder are also common in houses from 1986 and earlier. Leaching of lead into drinking water can be an issue.

Toys, furniture, imitation jewelry and cosmetics can all contain lead and are potential health hazards. Avoid putting such materials in the mouth. Imported items such as candies, candy wrappers and vinyl products contain lead.

Once distributed in the environment, lead persists in the soil, air and water. Children exposed to lead may suffer from anemia, comprehension problems, poor IQ and even loss of hearing. With pregnant women, fetuses can be exposed to lead, which results in premature births and inadequate development of the fetus.

Adults exposed to lead can experience hypertension, heart problems, kidney trouble and fertility issues. The reason why lead is regarded as particularly harmful is that accumulates over time in the bones and can harm multiple organs.

The local health department can assist homeowners with identifying sources of lead exposure in their homes. Paint removal companies adept at dealing with lead-based paint should remove old flaky paint on walls and cabinets, if they test positive for lead. One can purchase test kits to check for the presence of lead in the soil and paint, these kits can serve as a starting point for your actions to keep your family away from lead.

Testing potable water at home for the presence of lead is essential for homeowners, particularly if the family has youngsters, pregnant or lactating women. If the amount of lead is in the range of 15 parts per billion or more, then one should take steps to bring down the amount of lead in the water.

Steps to take include flushing water from taps and then using the fresh running water, as well as avoiding using the hot water tap because hot water dissolves more of lead. You can install commercially available lead filters to reduce concentration of lead from tap water.

If you are renting an accommodation that was constructed before 1978, then under federal law, the property owner must provide you with information that will enable you to recognize and manage lead-based threats. You can also ask the landlord to conduct a lead hazard inspection prior to agreeing to the terms of lease.