Dirt alert!

Loose dirt on a gardening spade

Learn about lead, protect your health! 

The soil you come into contact with every day may contain heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and mercury, that can get into your body by accidentally eating or breathing in dirt and dust particles. Luckily, you can take simple actions to protect yourself and your family.


Why heavy metals might be in the soil

Heavy metals are found naturally in some soil. Other sources include industrial and mining sites. Soil near roads may be contaminated as well. Older homes may have lead paint and arsenic-treated wood, and newer industrial sites might have arsenic-treated wood. The materials can peel, chip, and splinter, and end up in the soil.


Healthy home best practices

Regularly wash with soap and water

  • Hands, especially for children after playing and before eating (make it a washing game or contest).
  • Toys, bottles and pacifiers.
  • Fruits and vegetables. 
  • Garden tools.
  • Floors (use a mop).
  • Surfaces and windowsills. 

Keep dirt outside

  • Remove and clean shoes before you come in to avoid tracking dirt through the house.
  • Use doormats to clean shoes before going inside.
  • Leave gardening tools outside.

Create safe places to play

  • Don’t allow kids to play in bare soil along the sides of buildings or under porches.
  • Keep play areas away from old buildings, roads, and suspected mine waste.
  • Make sure sandboxes are clean and filled with new sand before using.

Garden safely

  • Use raised garden beds with store-bought soil.
  • Don’t garden next to buildings or roads.
  • Remember to wear gloves.

Eat healthy

  • Eat a variety of foods rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E to reduce the effects of lead and arsenic.

Maintain your home

If you have a home built before 1979, you may have lead-based paint.

  • Keep the paint in your home in good condition to reduce peeling, chipping, or flaking paint.
  • Do not remove the paint yourself.
  • Hire EPA lead-safe certified contractors.
  • Replace air filters regularly.

Why lead in soil can be dangerous
  • Lead can cause high blood pressure in adults, kidney problems, delays in children’s physical or mental development, and lower birth-weight in infants.
  • Lead poisoning usually happens when a child is around small amounts of lead for long periods of time, but lead poisoning can happen quickly if a person swallows something with lead in it, such as a toy or paint chip.
  • Lead poisoning can harm your health long after exposure, even into adulthood. If you think you or your child may have lead poisoning, talk to your doctor.

Why arsenic in soil can be dangerous
  • Continually eating food contaminated with inorganic arsenic can increase the risk of cancer in the skin, liver, bladder, and lungs.
  • Eating or breathing in low levels of inorganic arsenic for a long time can cause a darkening of the skin and the appearance of small “corns” or “warts” on the palms, soles, and torso.
  • Eating or breathing low levels also can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of “pins and needles” in the hands and feet.
  • If you think you or your child may have been exposed to arsenic, talk to your doctor.


For information about lead and your health, contact ToxCall at 303-692-2606 or cdphe_toxcall@state.co.us.  

To request this web page information in a fact sheet, email cdphe_leadreports@state.co.us.