Lead is a naturally occurring metal that has been used in the production of batteries, metal products such as solder and pipes, devices to shield X-rays, explosives, artillery, ammunition, and more.
Because of health concerns, lead use has decreased dramatically in gasoline, ammunition, paints, ceramics, caulking, and pipe solder over the past decades.
If you have health concerns about lead exposure during service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.
How Veterans may have been exposed to lead
Veterans may be at risk for elevated lead levels if they:
- Spent many days at indoor firing ranges, such as in a special operations unit
- Had contact with lead-based paints that were deteriorating
- Drank water from old lead pipes
- Had contact with lead in the air, dust, soil, water, and some commercial products
Health problems caused by lead
When lead is inhaled or swallowed, it can affect almost every organ and system in the body, including the nervous system.
Long-term exposure in adults can cause:
- Decreased memory and concentration
- Weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles
- Small increases in blood pressure, particularly in middle-aged and older people
High levels of exposure can cause:
- Severe damage of the brain and kidneys
- Impaired sperm production
Learn more about lead and its health effects from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
If you are concerned about health problems associated with lead exposure during service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.
Compensation benefits for health problems
Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to lead exposure during military service. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. File a claim online.
Learn more about VA benefits.