Lead poisoning

Fact Checked

Lead poisoning is considered life-threatening and oftentimes fatal. This type of poisoning occurs when lead accumulates in the body. Always remember that lead is a very toxic metal and strong poison. It is usually present in lead-based paints, but also present in contaminated dust, art supplies and gasoline products.

Lead poisoning typically occurs over a time span of months or even years. It can result to severe physical and mental impairment. Young children are very susceptible to lead poisoning. Lead can enter their bodies by putting objects that contain lead in their mouths or if they put their contaminated fingers into their mouths. Always remember the lead is harmful to children since their nervous systems and brains are still developing.

Causes of lead poisoning

Lead poisoning occurs once lead is ingested. It can also be caused by breathing in dust that contains lead. Take note that lead is not visible to the naked eye and you cannot taste or smell it.

Common sources of lead

  • House paint manufactured before 1978
  • Household items and toys painted before 1976
  • Curtain weights, bullets and fishing sinkers made out of lead
  • Soil polluted by car exhaust or chipping house paint
  • Sink faucets and pipes that can contaminate drinking water
  • Art supplies and paint sets
  • Storage batteries
  • Kohl eyeliners

Who are at risk for lead poisoning?

Children are considered to be at high risk for lead poisoning especially for those who reside in long-standing houses with dilapidated paint. This is due to the fact that young children are prone to put objects and fingers inside their mouths.

Those who live in developing countries are also at high risk since such countries do not have strict rules on lead usage.

Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning

The symptoms tend to vary and can affect various areas of the body. In most cases, lead poisoning accumulates at a slow rate. Lead toxicity is considered rare after a single exposure or ingestion of lead. The signs of repeated exposure to lead include:

lead poisoning-headache
Headache is one of the symptoms of lead poisoning.
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Sleeping problems
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of developmental skills in children
  • Fatigue
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Memory loss
  • Kidney dysfunction

How lead poisoning is treated?

The initial step in treating lead poisoning is to determine and remove the source of lead. Children should be kept away from the source. In case it could not be removed, it should be sealed. Get in touch with your local health department on how to remove the lead and you will also be instructed on emergency measures that will help reduce exposure to lead.

In severe cases, chelation therapy is used. With this treatment, it basically binds to the accumulated lead and it is excreted through urine. Activated charcoal can also be used in order to bind the lead in the gastrointestinal tract. Even substances that promote elimination through defecation can be used.

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