This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics Inorganic Substances", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia medica and therapeutics.
Of the different workers in lead, oxide of lead, or "white lead" (carbonate), those who grind it in factories are most liable to suffer, though less so now that the powder is ground with water (Taylor); but house-painters and coach-painters, plumbers, pewterers, and compositors, makers of certain white glazed cards, hat pressers, bleachers of Brussels lace, and glazers of pottery, are often affected. Severe symptoms have sometimes arisen from sleeping in a newly-painted room, or from breathing the smoke of burning painted wood. Among exceptional and little suspected causes of plumbism, are the handling of vulcanized rubber and black horse-hair colored by lead sulphide, the use of hair washes, dyes, and cosmetics containing lead salts, breathing dust from "American cloth" whitened with lead salts, and in the process of making yellow cord fusees (chromate of lead). Poisonous symptoms have followed in an infant after the application of strong lead lotions to the mother's nipples, and in children from yellow confectionery (chromate); the chewing of "tea lead" (in which tea is wrapt), the using of snuff that had been wrapped in similar "foil," the use of soda water from lead "syphons" (British Medical Journal, 1874-75) - (free tartaric acid is said to help in this case) - bathing in water impregnated from a leaden pipe, the drinking of wine from bottles which had been cleansed with shot - have all caused plumbism.
Two curious epidemics have occurred - one at Taunton, another in France - from flour ground between millstones that had been mended with lead (British Medical Journal, 1877; Medical Times, i., 1878), and even the handling of lead machines, as in ice-cream making, or cameo polishing, or cleaning "beer engines" or brass handles (as engineers do), has induced colic.
There is some reason to think that the "dry colic," or enteric neuralgia, of tropical countries is connected with lead. Gubler gives instructive instances of its development from the use of lead cosmetics in Creoles (Medical Record, 1876), and it is said to have become more common since steam-boats have been more used! (Medical Record, 1876). Mialhe and other French physicians also speak of lead colic being frequent on shipboard, and connect it with the action of a saline atmosphere on lead engines, etc.
But excepting the trades first mentioned, the most frequent source of lead-poisoning is the use of drinking-water impregnated with the metal or some of its compounds. Bad symptoms have resulted from so small an amount as 1/40 gr. per gallon, and 1 gr. per gallon is a surely dangerous dose. It is to be noted that the freer the water from saline ingredients, the more readily it takes up a soluble carbonate formed on the metal pipe or cistern. Its formation and solubility are also favored by much organic impurity, free access of oxygen, a little nitric acid (as may happen after thunder-showers), or the presence of a second metal (iron as well as lead). Carbonic acid in pure water also favors solubility, although in certain circumstances it may act differently. Lime and other saline constituents will, on the other hand, if present in the water, lessen liability to contamination by forming insoluble coatings on the metal: otherwise, no doubt, plumbism would be still more common than it is.