Lead – A Toxic Element
Lead is a naturally occurring element that is toxic to humans and especially damaging to children under the age of seven. Lead poisoning can stunt growth, cause damage to the brain, kidneys, hearing and other body parts and organs, as well as permanently damage mental development. Adult lead poisoning symptoms include high blood pressure, muscle and joint pain, and damage to the digestive, urinary and nervous systems.
Where Is Lead Found?
Recent attention has focused on lead in our cities’ water supplies and foreign imports that are contaminated with dangerous levels of lead. While lead in water and products is a real hazard, the primary lead danger to children comes from lead-based paint and lead in household dust. While lead-based paint for residential use was banned in 1978, if you live in a house or apartment building built before 1978, there is a strong chance that lead-based paint exists in the structure (see the section on Sources of Lead Poisoning).
Who is Most at Risk?
Infants and Children
Children under the age of seven are the most vulnerable and impacted by lead poisoning. Lead can be especially dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its damaging effects. Babies and young children also tend to put their hands and other objects into their mouths, which is the primary pathway for lead ingestion. A child can be poisoned by lead just by inhaling a few particles of dust.
Adults are also Susceptible to Lead Poisoning
Certain jobs may cause lead contamination, such as working at a battery recycling facility or other manufacturer. Engaging in such hobbies as stained glass making or ingesting certain folk remedies that contain lead are all possible sources of lead poisoning. Fetal exposure through pregnant mothers is a particular concern because it may result in poisoning her developing baby.
Adults can also suffer from high blood pressure, nerve disorders, muscle pain, and organ problems.
What are the Symptoms of Lead Poisoning?
It is difficult to identify short-term symptoms of lead poisoning, but parents should be alert to persistent tiredness or hyperactivity, frequent headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss and reduced attention span. High lead blood levels may cause children to develop physical, mental, and neurological problems over timeframes of months to years. Some of these symptoms include attention deficit issues, hyperactivity, speech delay, inability to focus and more. But these symptoms can often be misdiagnosed. Lead poisoning has been linked to lowered cognitive and intelligence abilities, reduced academic performance, hearing problems, attention disorders, juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior.