Exposure From Lead Paint

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Exposure to lead-based paint can lead to a medical condition referred to as lead poisoning, which is the result of high levels of lead in a person's bloodstream. Lead paint is also known as saturnism and its adverse effects are very dangerous.

Exposure to lead paint can occur because of various reasons. Some of the most common lead poisoning cases are a result of the lead paint that was used on homes over 50 years ago. Often, lead paint will begin to chip away from an old home and then come in contact with other random items around, or outside of, the home. Human contact with these items may lead to the ingestion of the lead contaminants.

The dangers of lead exposure have been known for more than 300 years. Benjamin Franklin and Charles Dickens both wrote essays about the devastating effects of lead poisoning. Researchers studying bone fragments have determined that lead poisoning was the cause of Ludwig von Beethoven's physical and mental illness from the time he was in his teens. Since the upper classes in Rome used lead to sweeten their food, collect their water, and prevent their wine from turning into vinegar, some historians attribute the fall of the Roman Empire to lead poisoning. In fact, the Germans even banned Roman wine and food imports in the 1600s.

While many other industrialized countries banned the use of lead paint in homes, schools, and hospitals early in the 20th century, the United States didn't begin doing so until 1970. Therefore, it is still a hazard found in older houses and apartments in this country, victimizing the youngest and most vulnerable members of the population. Different regulations have been put into place dealing with lead paint. There is a directive controlling lead paint use in the European Union. The United States government put into place the Consumer Product Safety Commission which bans lead paint.

Another common scenario that leads to lead poisoning is from lead paint found in dust. When the lead paint chips away from the home, small dust particles become airborne. Inhalation of dust containing small traces of lead may develop into lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning resulting from exposure to lead-containing paint is most common in children. Children have a tendency to touch many different things around the home that could have come in contact with lead paint. Placing their hands in their mouth after coming in contact with an object that has been exposed to the lead paint can result in lead poisoning.

Children who are exposed to lead-based paint may suffer from hearing problems, slowed growth, headaches, behavioral and learning disabilities, brain damage, or damage to the nervous system. Some common symptoms experienced by a child who has come into excessive contact with lead-based paint include hyperactivity, hearing and speech difficulties, numerous allergy reactions, and ADHD. One out of six children in the United States alone have high levels of lead in their blood, as reported by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Children between the ages of 12 and 36 months are more likely to be poisoned by lead because they have the habit of putting things in their mouths, especially while they are teething. Symptoms of lead poisoning in children are more prevalent and they include vomiting, abdominal pain, irritability, constipation, weight loss, difficulty in learning, anemia, and appetite loss.

If you suspect that your home may contain lead paint, it is imperative to have it removed by a professional. It is also important to have your children tested for traces of lead in their bloodstream. Contact the child's physician in order to get a blood test taken, as that is how the exposure is detected.

The most common symptoms of lead poisoning for adults include high blood pressure, excessive allergy reaction, headaches, joint pain, muscle pain, problems with the reproductive system in both men and women, digestive problems, and others. Lead paint causes damage in the entire human body. Hypertension is one of the symptoms of lead poisoning. For a pregnant woman, lead poisoning can result in brain damage to the fetus. A child will suffer more damage if there is a higher level of lead in their system.

Other extremely serious conditions resulting from lead exposure include blindness and paralysis. The most serious cases can result in a coma or even death.

Occupational and environmental exposure through the use of lead paint continues to be an issue of concern for adults as well. In the United States, leaded paint is used as a protective agent on metal bridges and bridge components, road signs, and road markings. Consequently, workers are still exposed to the toxic effects of leaded paint.