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What You Should Know About Lead Exposure and Lead Poisoning

What You Should Know About Lead Exposure and Lead Poisoning

There are currently at least 4 million households in the US exposed to high levels of lead. Approximately half a million US children (aged 1 to 5) have lead concentration higher than the recommended CDC public health level.

Globally, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated that in 2016 lead exposure accounted for 540,000 deaths. It also contributed to 13.9 million years of healthy life lost worldwide due to long-term effects on health.

When It Comes to Lead Poisoning, Children Are the Vulnerable Group

Lead is a toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. This is because they absorb 4–5 times as much lead as adults. Even before birth, lead in the bone of the parent can be released into the blood during pregnancy. This may then expose the fetus to the toxin.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , children are most vulnerable to the dangers of lead exposure. This is because their bodies are yet to develop sufficient capacity to withstand the toxin and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to it.

Moreover, children’s tendency to almost always put anything in their mouths has made them more vulnerable. They are more prone to ingest objects that contain lead like contaminated soil or dust and flakes from decaying lead paint. This may even be worse for children with the psychological disorder to eat non-food items. If left unattended, they may eat away lead paint from walls, door frames and furniture.

The ingestion of this poisonous substance can lead to profound and permanent adverse health effects. Lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children. With high exposure, lead can attack the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children that survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioral disorders.

What Lead Exposure Does to The Body

Lead poisoning can have adverse effects on virtually every system of the human body. It is not always easy to detect these effects though because it often goes with no obvious symptoms. As a toxin, lead can spread to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. Many times, it also stores in the teeth and bones. There are different ways the toxin affects both adults and children.

Dangers of Lead Exposure in Adults

Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood. In adults, according to the World Health Organization, lead exposure can result into:

Gradual changes in mood, personality and behavior.

  • Cognitive issues such as memory loss and trouble thinking clearly
  • Weakness and muscle problems
  • Kidney Dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Anemia (lack of blood)
  • Brain Damage
  • Reproductive problems
  • Increased blood pressure.

Other than these effects above, lead exposure is also poisonous to pregnant women. According to the CDC, high levels of the neurotoxin can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.

Dangers of Lead Exposure in Children

Children have been identified as the most vulnerable group to lead exposure and lead poisoning.

While the neurotoxin is harmful to all humans, it is most damaging to children. In children, lead exposure may cause developmental, behavioral, and learning problems that include:

  • Lower IQ and inattentiveness.
  • Loss of developmental skills and underperformance.
  • Anemia and problems with hearing.
  • Muscular weakness and lack of energy
  • Sleep disorders; and
  • Behavior problems, such as aggression, moodiness or hyperactivity.

How Does One Become Exposed To Lead?

Lead is a natural toxic metal that can be found in the Earth’s crust. It is the widespread use of the substance that has resulted in wide environmental contamination and public health problems in many parts of the world.

One can generally be exposed to the substance either through inhalation of the particles or ingestion of the substance.

Inhalation of Lead Particles

Inhaling particles contaminated with lead is the major way through which the neurotoxin enters the body system. Here are the major avenues for this inhalation.

  • Lead Paints: Even though the use of lead paints has been outlawed since 1978, there are still quite a number of old buildings with the toxic substance. The paint may be several layers below but peeling or wear can expose the lead to the environment.
  • Other Lead-Infested Substances: There is a high level of soil and dust already contaminated with lead. This is often as a result of battery recycling and mining. According to the UN, more than three quarters of global lead consumption is for the manufacture of lead-acid batteries for motor vehicles. However, lead is also used in making some products like pigments, solder, stained glass and lead crystal glassware. Ammunition, ceramic glazes, jewelry, traditional medicines and even some toys and cosmetics are made using the substance.

Ingestion of Lead Particles

Asides inhaling lead particles, one may also be poisoned through ingesting lead-contaminated dust and food from containers exposed to lead.

Only recently, the Environmental Protection Agency highlighted the dangers of lead being present in drinking water supplies. The alert, which is not that new altogether, contained information about the possibility of being poisoned from water pipes containing lead.

Is There a Safe Level of Exposure to Lead?

There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe. It used to be generally assumed that a low presence of lead is ‘normal’. This is however only believed because the symptoms to lead easily go undetected.

It has now been found that no amount of lead is safe. Research shows that lead exposure could have a larger impact on our health than we thought. Lead causes a wide range of injury across multiple body systems. Low lead concentration is now associated with decreased intelligence in children. However, the severity of lead exposure increases with the concentration.

Is There Any Treatment for Lead Poisoning?

When it concerns lead poisoning, prevention is better than cure. Preventing exposure and absorption of lead altogether is the best alternative.

The concentration may however be lessened by making changes to your environment or diet. Detecting and eliminating the sources of lead exposure will slow down the concentration of the toxic substance overtime.

This may also include dietary changes like taking more foods with iron and calcium. These can help protect the body against lead by stopping it from being absorbed or stored.

For some individuals with high lead levels, advanced treatments like chelation therapy may be required. This form of therapy involves administering a drug that will break down the particles so that they can be ejected from the body as waste products.

Don’t Wait an Extra Day – Find Yourself an Attorney

At Oshan and Associates, we are dedicated attorneys you can trust and have made it our mission to prevent lead poisoning from happening in communities and homes. We are also particularly concerned with advocating for persons who have been endangered by lead poisoning.

If you reach out to us early, we can help you get compensation for the injuries you or your loved ones suffered as a result of the poisoning. Contact us at 206-355-3880 or fill out our online contact form as soon as possible to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

1 Response

Thomas Clarence
Thomas Clarence

December 24, 2020

It really stood out to me when the article mentioned that lead is particularly harmful to younger children. My pregnant wife and I are going to be moving to a new apartment soon and it seems like it would be a good idea for me to have it tested for lead since it is an older building. I want my wife and baby to be safe so I am going to have to get this done this week.

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