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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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Lead is a naturally occurring metal found in the earth’s crust and is used for many commercial and industrial purposes. Service members who come into contact with lead-based paints that are deteriorating or who drink water from old lead pipes may be at risk for elevated lead levels.

Exposure to high lead levels for short periods of time may result in the following:

  • Metal-taste in mouth
  • Frequent stomach aches
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle pain or weakness

Exposure to moderate lead levels for long periods of time may cause changes in:

  • Personality
  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Motor skills
  • Frequent stomach aches (lead colic)
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Weakness


Acute severe lead poisoning, which occurs when a person takes in a large amount of lead over a short period of time, may cause neurological difficulties, kidney problems, and miscarriages. There is no conclusive proof to date that lead causes cancer in humans.

If you are concerned about lead exposure, please talk to your health care provider. A simple blood test is all that is needed to determine if you have an elevated lead level.


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