Environmental Poisons

Lead Poisoning

Graphic of lead sources in a child's environment
Lead can be found in paint (homes built before 1978), water pipes, toys & toy jewelry, imported candy, and debris from some lead-based industries.

Lead poisoning occurs when a person's health and body function are affected by lead contamination from something that has been inhaled, consumed (eaten or swallowed), or touched (skin contact). Lead poisoning is preventable and can be detected by a blood lead level test. Talk to your child's doctor about obtaining a blood lead level test if you are concerned about lead exposure. Find a lead poisoning prevention program in your area.

Visit the CDCs Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

Download CDCs Lead Prevention Infographic.

Lead in Schools

Resources for recent concerns about lead exposures in Portland - area schools:

Oregon Health Authority's lead information website.

Oregon lead information phone line: 1-800-368-5060 (includes multilingual options).

National lead information from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Child Reading a Book


Surma is also called "ranja," "kohl," "kajal," "gajal," "kahal," or "al-kahal." It is a traditional eye makeup from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and most have lead in them. Surma can cause lead poisoning when used on the face or newborn's umbilical stump. Consider using products from Europe or the US instead. Learn more about lead poisoning from imported makeup in children from Western States Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU). Read the FDA's warning about lead poisoning from traditional eye cosmetics.

Surma can poison children

Heavy Metals in SE Portland

Air & Soil Contaminants

In January 2016, possibly unsafe levels of arsenic and cadmium were found in the air near a glass maker in SE Portland. The company also used chromium +6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) which can be dangerous to health. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is working with the Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Health Department to test the air around the company. DEQ adopted Cleaner Air Oregon rules in November 2018 to close the regulatory gaps after the implementation of federal air toxics regulations. "Cleaner Air Oregon is a state health risk-based air toxics regulatory program that adds requirements to DEQ's existing air permitting framework."1


1 State of Oregon, Department of Environmental Quality, Cleaner Air Oregon. "Cleaner Air Oregon Fact Sheets." https://www.oregon.gov/deq/aq/cao/Pages/CAO-Fact-sheets.aspx Accessed 14 Oct. 2019.