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Lead poisoning

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Lead poisoning is one of the most common environmental child health problems. Lead poisoning unless you have him or her tested. A blood test takes only ten minutes, Concern over the health risks of lead poisoning, especially to children, isn't new. Although lead is no longer used in paints, gasoline, water pipes and other products, some lead-based products still exist and may pose a health hazard.

Lead is toxic to many of your body's tissues and enzymes. It can enter your body when you breathe, drink or eat anything that contains lead. With the exception of certain organic lead compounds, such as tetraethyl lead, previously added to produce leaded gasoline, you don't absorb lead through your skin. It accumulates in the bone marrow, nerve tissue - including your brain - and kidneys. You excrete some lead in urine and stool.

Children particularly are susceptible to lead poisoning because it can accumulate in their nervous system as their bodies grow and develop. Although death by lead poisoning is uncommon, dangerous levels of lead in children may cause serious health problems, including lowered intelligence and poor school performance.

Unfortunately, lead poisoning may go undetected because frequently there are no obvious symptoms. But by removing or avoiding lead sources or with early detection and treatment, you can prevent or limit the harmful effects of lead poisoning.

Signs and symptoms 

Lead poisoning may be hard to detect at first because children who appear healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies. The accumulation of lead in the body usually is gradual, building up unnoticed until levels are dangerous.

The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children are nonspecific and may include:

Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous to adults. The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in adults may include:

  • Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities

  • Muscular weakness

  • Headache

  • Abdominal pain

  • Memory loss

  • Reproductive impairment in men


Lead isn't biodegradable and can remain a health threat if it's not properly removed or contained.

Risk factors 

Children and adults living in or surrounded by an environment with lead-based products are at risk of exposure to high lead levels.

Babies and young children especially are susceptible to lead exposure because they have a tendency to put objects in their mouths. They may eat or chew paint chips, or their hands or other objects placed in their mouths may be contaminated with lead dust. Lead poisoning is more dangerous to fetuses, babies and children than to adults because lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies. The tissue of children also is more sensitive to lead's damaging effects. Although lead exposure can affect any child, those who are most at risk are low-income children who live in older housing, usually in inner-city areas.

Adults may breathe in lead dust while remodeling a home, while working on certain jobs with lead exposure or while engaging in a hobby, such as making stained glass or refinishing furniture. If you're pregnant, take extra caution because lead can damage your developing fetus.


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Last Modified : 03/15/08 01:18 AM