Is lead roofing dangerous?

Posted on June 28th, 2024

For centuries, lead has been a trusted material in the building industry, particularly for roofing. Its durability, malleability, and weather resistance made it a popular choice for both roofing and flashing. However, in recent years, concerns about lead's toxicity have led many homeowners to question its safety. So, is lead roofing dangerous? Let's delve into the pros and cons of lead roofing and flashing to help you decide on your home.

Is Lead Still Used in Roofing?

Lead use in roofing has significantly declined due to growing awareness of its health risks. However, it's not entirely gone. You might still find lead in older buildings or in specific situations where a long-lasting, watertight seal is required. Lead flashing, for instance, is sometimes used around chimneys, skylights, or other roof penetrations.

Is Lead Flashing Safe to Handle?

Intact lead flashing, if in good condition, poses minimal risk to homeowners. The biggest danger lies in lead dust and fumes created during installation, repairs, or removal. These can be inhaled or ingested, leading to lead poisoning, especially for young children and pregnant women. Lead is a toxic metal, and prolonged exposure can lead to serious health issues, including lead poisoning.

Can You Touch Lead Flashing?

Direct contact with lead flashing is not immediately dangerous, but consistent and repeated exposure without protective measures can be harmful. Lead dust can settle on your hands and transfer to your face or food, leading to ingestion. If you suspect you've come into contact with lead, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

The Dangers of Lead for Roofers

For those working with lead regularly, such as roofers, the risks are more pronounced. Exposure to lead can result in severe health problems, including neurological damage, kidney disease, and reproductive issues. The building industry has developed stringent guidelines and a code of practice to minimize these risks, emphasizing the need for protective gear, proper ventilation, and safe handling procedures.

The Dangers of Lead Exposure

Lead is a toxic metal that can cause a wide range of health problems at high levels of exposure. These include:

Developmental problems in children: Lead exposure can hinder brain development, leading to learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and a lower IQ.

Damage to the nervous system: Lead can cause nerve damage, resulting in headaches, muscle weakness, seizures, and even coma in severe cases.

Kidney problems: Lead exposure can damage the kidneys, leading to high blood pressure and kidney failure.

Anemia: Lead can interfere with red blood cell production, leading to fatigue and weakness.

Pros and Cons of Lead Roofing

While lead flashing offers some advantages but the health risks associated with lead exposure outweigh these benefits. Let us discuss the pros and cons below.


Durability: Lead is an incredibly durable material, capable of lasting over a century if properly maintained.

Corrosion Resistance: Lead's resistance to corrosion makes it ideal for roofs exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Malleability: Lead is easy to work with, allowing for complex roof designs and secure seals around joints and chimneys.

Aesthetic Appeal: Lead roofing provides a unique, classic look that can enhance the character of historic and high-end homes.


Health Risks: Prolonged exposure to lead can be harmful, posing significant health risks to roofers and homeowners if not handled correctly.

Environmental Concerns: Lead is a pollutant that can contaminate soil and water, posing broader environmental hazards.

Cost: Lead roofing can be more expensive than other materials, both in terms of initial installation and ongoing maintenance.

Alternatives to Lead Flashing

Given the risks associated with lead, many homeowners and builders are seeking alternatives. Materials like zinc, copper, and synthetic flashings offer similar durability and aesthetic benefits without the associated health hazards. These lead-free options are increasingly popular in the building industry, providing a safer and more environmentally friendly solution.

Conclusion: Should You Use Lead Roofing?

While lead roofing and flashing have their advantages, the potential health risks cannot be ignored. Proper handling and safety measures are essential to minimize exposure to lead. Homeowners should be aware of the risks and consider safer alternatives when possible. 

Whether you’re considering lead roofing, exploring alternatives, or need expert advice on maintaining your roof, BCheema Roofing is here to help. We offer a wide range of roofing services designed to keep your home safe, secure, and looking its best. Contact us today to learn more about our services and to schedule a consultation. Let us help you protect your home and ensure the longevity of your roof. Visit our website at B-Cheema Roofing Ltd.