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Lead Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Jul 25, 2023

Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning frequently results from lead accumulation in the body over the course of months or years. Even in little concentrations, lead can be quite dangerous to health. Children under the age of six who are lead-poisoned may experience major delays in their physical and mental growth. At incredibly high concentrations, lead poisoning can be fatal.

Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are common causes of lead poisoning in children. Additional sources include polluted air, water, and soil. Adults who work in auto repair shops, renovate their homes, or handle batteries may also be exposed to lead.

Lead poisoning can be treated, but there are some simple precautions you can take to protect your family from lead exposure before it becomes a problem.

Symptoms Of Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning can cause a variety of symptoms. Numerous body parts could be impacted. Lead poisoning typically develops gradually, It comes after numerous small-lead exposures. After a single exposure to or consumption of lead, lead poisoning is uncommon.

Symptoms of repeated lead exposure include:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Constipation
  • Aggressiveness
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Loss of children's developing abilities
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Loss of memory
  • Anemia
  • Kidney dysfunction

Lead exposure can cause intellectual impairment in children since their brains are still developing. Symptoms could include:

  • Behavior issues
  • Low IQ
  • Short-term and long-term learning challenges
  • Low school grades
  • Difficulties with hearing
  • Growth delays

There may be emergency symptoms from a high, toxic dose of lead poisoning. A few of these include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Excruciating abdominal pain
  • Seizures
  • Stumbling while walking
  • Convulsions, disorientation, and coma which are all symptoms of coma encephalopathy

Causes Of Lead Poisoning

Lead is a naturally occurring metal present in the crust of the earth but various human activities such as mining and burning fossil fuels and minerals have made its existence more common. Batteries, solder, pipes, pottery, roofing materials, and some cosmetics still contain lead, which was also previously used in paint and petrol.

Paint containing lead

Since 1978, lead-based paints have been prohibited in American homes, children's products, and furniture. But in many older houses and apartments, lead-based paint is still present on the walls and woodwork. Eating chips of decaying lead-based paint is the main cause of lead poisoning in children.

Both imported canned products and water pipelines

Lead can leach into drinking water through lead plumbing fittings, copper pipes soldered with lead, and lead pipes.

Even though it is forbidden in the US, other nations still use lead solder in food cans.

Additional Lead Exposure Sources

Lead can also occasionally be found in:

  • Soil. Leaded paint or petrol can deposit years' worth of lead particles in the soil. Around highways and in some metropolitan areas, lead-contaminated soil continues to be a serious issue. Lead is present in some of the soil near the walls of older homes.
  • Domestic dust. Lead paint chips or contaminated soil brought in from outside can contain lead, which can then be found in household dust.
  • Pottery. Lead may be found in glazes on some ceramic, china, and porcelain, which can contaminate food stored or served in the pottery.
  • Toys. Toys and other items made abroad occasionally contain lead.
  • Cosmetics. Tiro, a Nigerian eye cosmetic product has been connected to lead poisoning. Another eye product that may include lead is kohl.
  • Mexican sweets.  Lead may be present in tamarind, a component of several Mexican candies.
  • Lead ammunition. Exposure might result from spending time at shooting ranges.
  • Occupations. When people work in other industries, such as mining, pipe fitting, battery manufacture, painting, and building, they may be exposed to lead and risk bringing it home on their clothing.

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Risk Factors Of Lead Poisoning

Your risk of lead poisoning may be increased by the following factors:

  • Age. Young children and infants are more prone than older children to be exposed to lead. They might ingest paint flaking off of woodwork and walls, and lead dust could get on their hands. Additionally, lead is more damaging to young children than it is to adults and older children since it is easier for them to absorb.
  • Staying in an old house. Even though lead-based paints have been prohibited since the 1970s, older homes, and structures frequently still contain traces of toxic paint. Renovations in older homes put homeowners at even greater risk.
  • Certain hobbies. Lead solder is needed to create some jewelry and stained glass. You might come into contact with layers of lead paint while refinishing ancient furniture.
  • Residing in undeveloped nations. Compared to industrialized countries, developing countries frequently have fewer stringent regulations addressing lead exposure. The blood of children adopted by American families from abroad may need to be checked for lead poisoning. Children who are refugees or immigrants should also be tested.
  • An unborn kid could be harmed by lead. Pregnant women and those considering pregnancies should take extra precautions to limit their exposure to lead.

Prevention Of Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning can be avoided with a few easy precautions. These consist of:

  • Avoid or discard painted toys and foreign-produced canned products.
  • Keep the dust out of your house.
  • While preparing meals and beverages prefer using cold water
  • Before dining, make sure everyone washes their hands.
  • Check for lead in your water. Use a filtering device or consume bottled water if lead levels are high.
  • Regularly clean the aerators and faucets.
  • Wash bottles and toys for kids frequently.
  • Teaching your kids to wash their hands after playing is important.
  • Make sure any contractor working on your home has lead control certification.
  • In your home, use lead-free paint.
  • Bring young children to the pediatrician's office for a blood lead level screening.
  • Around the age of 1 to 2 years old, this is typically done.
  • Avoid any locations that might have been painted with lead-based paint.

Complications Of Lead Poisoning

Lead exposure, especially in children, can have long-term negative effects even at low levels. Brain development is especially at risk since there is a possibility of irreversible damage. Both children's and adults' neurological systems and kidneys can be harmed by higher doses. Seizures, unconsciousness, and death can result from extremely high lead concentrations.

Diagnosis Of Lead Poisoning

During routine checkups, your child's healthcare practitioner can suggest that lead levels be measured. This testing often occurs between the ages of 1 and 2. For older kids who haven't had their lead levels checked, lead screening may also be advised.

Lead poisoning can be identified with a quick blood test. From a finger prick or vein, a little amount of blood is drawn. Micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) is the unit used to test lead levels in the blood.

Lead blood levels are never safe. On the other hand, a level of 5 mcg/dL is utilized to denote a potentially dangerous level for youngsters. Children whose blood tests come back at those levels should undergo regular testing. When a child's levels reach an abnormally high level, often 45 mcg/dL or above,

Treatment Of Lead Poisoning

Eliminating the contaminant's source is the first step in treating lead poisoning. If lead cannot be eliminated from the environment, it may be possible to lessen the likelihood that it may cause issues.

For instance, there are occasions when sealing something in is preferable to removing old lead paint. How to find and lessen lead in your home and neighborhood might be advised by your local health department.

Simply avoiding lead exposure may be sufficient to lower blood lead levels in kids and people with relatively low lead levels.

Treating More Severe Cases

If the situation is serious, your doctor might advise:

  • Chelation therapy. In this procedure, an oral drug binds to the lead and causes its excretion in the urine. Chelation therapy may be suggested for adults with high blood lead levels or lead poisoning symptoms as well as children with a blood lead level of 45 mcg/dL or above.
  • The use of chelation therapy with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). Adults with blood lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL are typically treated with calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), as do children who cannot tolerate the medication used in standard chelation therapy. The injection of EDTA is used.

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