About Lead Poisoning

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Lead poisoning poses a serious health issue for those who experience its damaging effects. Left untreated, the damage may become permanent.

Before its danger was identified, the application of lead in home environments was common. Some of it lingers on today. Lead-based paint, the most common source of lead poisoning, has been used in home interiors, on toys, and on older china dishes. Lead residue may be found in the dirt near highways and busy roads. At one time, lead pipes were commonly used to convey drinking water from treatment facilities to homes. Some homes may still have interior lead pipes. There are federal regulations in place that now limit how lead may be used in this country; however, some imported homeopathic medicines and cosmetics contain lead and some imported canned foods have been found to have lead in their packaging. Recently, some toys made in other countries under U.S. brands have also been found to contain lead paint.

Certain tissues in the human body absorb the lead that we might accidentally swallow or inhale. Because the body doesn't easily discharge lead, levels build up and may eventually reach toxic levels. This gradual accumulation is not obvious, and symptoms are likely to be explained away or easily overlooked until critical levels are reached. If left untreated, some of the damage may become permanent.

In the body, lead poisoning may affect muscle tissue, brain tissue, the nervous and reproductive systems, and other organs. Symptoms are somewhat different and more severe for children than they are for adults. Children may experience a gradual loss of appetite and, consequently, lose weight along with digestive issues and anemia. They may lack energy and become pale. They may have trouble learning and exhibit behavioral problems. Delayed speech development and hearing loss are also common.

Adults with lead poisoning will experience other symptoms. These signs of lead intoxication may include numbness, tingling sensations, weakness, or pain in the extremities. They may have headaches, digestive and nerve disorders, vision and hearing problems, mood disorders, high blood pressure, and memory loss. Lead poisoning may also affect sperm count or sperm health in men, and may result in miscarriage or stillbirth in women.

A simple blood test can reveal lead levels in the body. This test should be performed on all children every year because of their vulnerability. Any person with symptoms should be brought to the attention of medical professionals as soon as possible, so that medication may be administered to remove lead toxins from the body.