Lead is a naturally occurring metal that may be found at home or at work, as this metal is used in everything from construction materials to batteries. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems.
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over a period of months or years. Lead is toxic to everyone, but unborn babies and young children are at greatest risk for health problems from lead poisoning as their smaller, growing bodies make them more susceptible to absorbing and retaining lead. Lead exposure can permanently damage the brain and impair intellectual development.
Symptoms Of Lead Poisoning
Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect as the signs and symptoms usually don’t appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated. However, common symptoms that may be related to over-exposure to lead are:
- Tiredness or weakness
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Aches or pains in stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Key Sources Of Lead Poisoning
- Lead-based paint – Old paint from buildings built prior to 1970 contain lead-based paint. This becomes a concern when it chips, turns into dust, or gets into the soil. Also, when it is sanded, scraped or is peeling, it creates a dangerous lead dust that is easily inhaled or swallowed.
- Lead-contaminated soil – Lead-contaminated household dust like the dust in the roof void (attic), wall cavity or under floor area could be a source of lead poisoning.
- Emissions – Exhaust emissions from leaded petrol driven vehicles not only pollute the air, but also settle on soil and in buildings.
- Food Cans – Some food cans may still have lead solder. These cans are usually irregular in shape with a thick seam and horizontal depressions (dents).
- Pets – Pets often show symptoms of lead poisoning before people. Make sure you clean your pet and ensure you wash your hands regularly.
- Drinking Water – Lead seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion of materials containing lead in the water distribution system, household or building plumbing.
- Children’s jewelry and toys – Lead has been often found in inexpensive children’s jewelry and toys. Make sure you check the label.
- Workplace – People exposed to lead at work may bring lead home on their clothes, shoes, hair, or skin. Some jobs that expose people to lead include home improvement, painting and refinishing, car or radiator repair, plumbing, construction, welding and cutting.
Long Term Impact Of Lead Poisoning On Health
The widespread use of lead has resulted in extensive environmental contamination, human exposure and significant public health problems in many parts of the world. Once lead enters the body, it is distributed to organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and bones where it accumulates over time. Here’s how it may affect us.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Undernourished children are more susceptible to lead because their bodies absorb more lead if other nutrients, such as calcium, are lacking. Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slow growth, hearing problems and anemia. In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.
Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. Lead stored in bone may be re-mobilized into the blood during pregnancy, thus exposing the fetus. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth.
Lead is harmful to other adults as well. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems (in both men and women).
As soon as you recognize the signs and symptoms, get a consultation with your doctor. Also, get your home tested to avoid lead poisoning. Be cautious, especially with pregnant women and children.