Lead Poisoning

What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning is a type of metal poisoning caused by the increased levels of the metal lead in a person’s body. Lead poisoning happens when you absorb too much lead by breathing or swallowing a substance with lead in it. Lead is contained in art supplies, contaminated dust, and gasoline sold in a very few countries outside of Canada and the United States. Typical sources of exposure are occupational or connected to hobbies such as home remodeling, auto repair, stained glass making, glazed pottery making.

Lead is a highly toxic metal and a very strong poison that interferes with a number of body processes and is toxic to many tissues and organs including the bones, heart, kidneys, intestines, and reproductive and nervous systems. The brain is the organ that is the most sensitive to lead exposure. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) it is estimated that more than 3 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to lead where they work.

What are the Symptoms of Lead Poisoning?

Lead is highly toxic and affects the body in several different manners. Main symptoms include neurological effects (neuropathy, fatigue, seizures, encephalopathy), gastrointestinal effects (nausea, constipation, colic), reproductive effects (miscarriages, infertility), heme synthesis (anemia), renal and muscular effects.

Acute signs include abdominal pain, constipation, problems sleeping,  high blood pressure, headaches, loss of memory, anemia, irritability, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, kidney dysfunction, aggressive behavior, and numbness or tingling in the extremities.

Children who are exposed to lead may develop behavior problems, problems hearing, delayed growth, poor academic performance, and low IQ together with a loss of developmental skills.

How is Lead Poisoning Treated?

The first step is to locate and get rid of the source of lead. It’s important to keep children away from the lead source. Call your local health department for information on how to remove lead. It’s also important to consume nutritious foods and even get chelation therapy in certain cases (when for example removing the source of exposure is not enough and symptoms do not disappear).

Make sure that you hire professional to get rid of lead-based paint and any dust that comes with it.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
August 09, 2017
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