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Lead Poisoning

All About Lead Poisoning

According to Wikipedia, lead poisoning is a medical condition in humans and other vertebrates caused by increased levels of the heavy metal lead in the body. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems. It interferes with the development of the nervous system and is therefore particularly toxic to children, causing potentially permanent learning and behavior disorders.

Lead poisoning symptoms include:

  •         abdominal pain
  •         confusion
  •         headache
  •         anemia
  •         irritability, and
  •         in severe cases seizures, coma, and death

 

Any trace amounts of lead can cause a negative effect on the body and increase the potential for lead poisoning.  As is the case with most toxic levels of heavy metals in the body, with lead poisoning, the lead in the body has a tendency to imitate essential elements, interfering with the body’s normal anatomy.

Lead poisoning can happen through multiple avenues and can be distributed through air, water, soil, food and other consumer products. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, more than 3 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to lead in the workplace.  In addition, one of the largest threats to children is lead paint, which exists in many homes, especially older ones. Those living in older housing, especially children, immunodeficient persons or the elderly, who are exposed to chipping paint or lead dust from moveable window frames are at greater risk of lead exposure and lead poisoning.   

Lead poisoning, or “lead intoxication,” has been noted ever since humans started mining and using lead, dating back thousands of years.  It is not until recent years with the advancements in technology and science that we have been able to understand how even the most trace amounts of lead can cause harm to the body.  It has been concluded that there is not a “safe” threshold to lead. Even the smallest amount of lead exposure may cause lead poisoning.

Effects of Lead Poisoning

The effect of environmental pollutants on adults, children and unborn fetuses has been widely researched.  Doctors and scientists have tied many developmental disorders to lead exposure in children.  Further studies have researched the possibility of lead exposure to an unborn fetus and how susceptible a fetus is to lead poisoning, thus causing developmental birth defects. Environmental Health Perspectives has a vast amount of research articles on the effects of lead poisoning in children and babies.

Lead poisoning is costly in more ways than just financially.  Some studies have found that lead poisoning in children can produce the same symptoms as that of autism.  Essentially, lead poisoning affected the children’s verbal and nonverbal communication along with their reciprocal social interactions. In a research article written by Theodore I. Lidsky, Ph.D. and Jay S. Schneider, Ph.D., the correlation of lead poisoning in children and autism is certainly connected. The study states that “One of the most common causes of neurodevelopmental impairment is childhood lead poisoning.”

Case studies have shown time and again how high levels of lead in human bodies produce poisoning effects.  A quality article from The British Journal of Pharmacology discusses three cases where people were exposed to lead paint in their work environment.  In each case, the people showed similar symptoms and had worked in similar jobs. The article states that even Hippocrates documented metals exposure in his medical findings.  

Treatment

The Mayo Clinic suggests that those who show low levels of lead poisoning should simply avoid further exposure. For others who have a more severe poisoning level, two types of therapies are available:

  • Chelation therapy. In this treatment, you take a medication that binds with the lead so that it’s excreted in your urine.
  • EDTA therapy. Doctors treat adults with lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL of blood with one or more of three drugs, most commonly a chemical called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). Depending on your lead level, you may need more than one treatment. In such severe cases, however, it may not be possible to reverse damage that has already occurred.

Testing for Lead Poisoning

If you or someone you know shows signs of lead poisoning, testing is the only way to be sure if lead is the culprit. Blood tests can be done with your family doctor, and lead can be safely removed from your home and water system. Those who are in the home-buying process are encouraged to have lead testing done prior to closing on a new home.

Lead testing is simple and easy.  Our Healthy Home technicians collect samples directly from your water faucet. Your samples are sent to laboratories and results are quickly and accurately delivered to you.

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