Lead poisoning takes place when a person either inhales or swallows lead in any form. This results in a massive damage to the brain, nerves, and other body parts. The following article provides some information about the condition and its symptoms.
Lead has the capacity to damage practically every organ system in the human body. It can cause hypertension or high blood pressure. It can also be harmful to the developing brains of young children and fetuses. The higher the lead levels in a child’s bloodstream, and the longer these high levels last, the greater will be the chances of the development of ill-effects. Overtime, the poisoning in a child can lead to many conditions like learning disabilities, mental retardation, and even behavioral problems. At dangerously high levels, the poisoning also leads to coma, seizures, and even death. Acute poisoning, which is comparatively rare, occurs when large quantities of the metal are taken into the human body over a very short period of time. Chronic poisoning, on the other hand, is fairly common in children.
A Brief Overview
According to reports submitted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, about one in every six children in America is affected by high levels of the metal in the bloodstream. Most of these children are generally exposed to it because of peeling paint present in older homes. The other ways of exposure is through soil and dust that has been contaminated by past emissions of this metal, gasoline, or even old paint. Children between the tender ages of 12 to 36 months, tend to put things in their mouth, and so they are more likely to consume the metal than most other children. Also, pregnant women who happen to come into contact with the metal, are also capable of passing it on to their fetuses.
More than 80% of the American homes that were built before the year 1978, were painted with lead-based paints. So, the older the home, the higher would be the likelihood of it containing the metal, and the higher would be its concentration in the paint. Some homes might also have it in the plumbing or water pipes. People may also find it in the paint, soil, and dust in and around their homes or even in their drinking water and may consume it unknowingly. Since it is not visible, and cannot be tasted or smelled, there are chances that people might end up consuming or inhaling it unknowingly. Also, since the metal does not break down naturally, it will continue to cause problems until and unless it has been removed.
Before most scientists even knew the extent to which the metal could harm a person, it was widely used all over the world in paints, water pipes, gasoline, and in many other products. Today all paints are almost lead-free, the household plumbing are no longer made up of these materials, and gasoline is unleaded. However, there will always be some remnants of these old hazards. Some of the sources of exposure include substances like the metal-based paint, soil and dust, drinking water, certain foods that have lead solders, certain folk medicines, and cosmetics, etc.
New surveys have shown that the metal could be harmful to children even at fairly low levels (levels that were once thought to be safe), and the risk of damage rises when the blood levels of the metal increase. The symptoms may develop over time. Children may sometimes appear to be healthy even if they have high levels of lead in their bloodstream. However, the following problems may arise after some time:
- Slow growth
- Learning disabilities
- Mental retardation
- Hearing loss
The poisoning can also be very harmful to adults, and it could lead to digestive problems, high blood pressure, memory loss, nerve disorders, joint, and muscle pain. Further, it could also lead to difficulties and complications during pregnancy, and cause reproductive problems in women, as well as men.
The acute form is characterized by rapid onset of symptoms that are quite severe. Some of the classical symptoms are:
- Weakness of the limbs
- Severe abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
If acute poisoning reaches the stage of seizures and coma, then there will be a high risk of death. Even if the person does survive, the chances of permanent brain damages taking place are high. The long-term effects of even mild poisoning can be severe and permanent. However, if identified on time, these adverse effects can be restricted by reducing any future exposure to the metal and by getting proper medical care and attention.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.