Lead Poisoning - An Overview

Lead poisoning is a gradual process in which the poison does not enter a person's system all at once, but rather little by little. Young children, babies, or even fetuses have the highest risk of experiencing lead poisoning and its damaging side effects.

Lead comes from various environmental sources, most of which are right in home. Paint inside the house or on toys and painted china, dust near busy roads and highways, stained glass windows, lead water pipes, some imported canned food and cosmetics, and sometimes even dirt can be contaminants. The lead is usually swallowed or inhaled without the person's knowledge.

Many times, the accumulation of lead in the system is so gradual that the onset of signs or symptoms might be overlooked or easily dismissed. Lead poisoning can affect muscles, organs, reproduction, and brain function.

By the time the symptoms or signs are recognized, the levels of lead in the blood are usually well into toxic ranges. Most often, children are the victims of lead poisoning, because a growing fetus or child has tissues that are more susceptible to absorbing lead than an adult's. Consequently, every child should be given a simple blood test during his/her annual check-up to detect the presence of lead, even if there are no symptoms. If the child's medical insurance does not cover routine tests such as for lead, many counties have health programs that offer the testing free of charge.

An attorney and/or the department of health can be of service in making sure that a tenant's rights are protected when lead poisoning is an issue in a rented home or apartment. They can provide advice and evaluate the situation for possible benefits provided under the law, including requiring the landlord or housing authority to perform an assessment and/or correct the problem. When a child is involved, many states offer assistance for a family's relocation from contaminated living quarters and will provide help in arranging special educational services from local school districts. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be available for those who experience severely debilitating effects of lead poisoning.