Lead poisoning is a medical condition that is caused by an increase of lead in the blood. It may lead to neurological damage, reproductive toxicity, cardiovascular effects and renal disease. This medical condition has also been referred to as saturnism, plumbism, or painter's colic.
Lead can be found everywhere and, unfortunately, it is not easily detected. Lead isn't visible and it doesn't have an odor or taste. It usually enters the body through inhalation, but it can also enter through the digestive tract.
The biggest cause of lead poisoning can be found in houses built before the 1960s. The paint in these older houses may contain high levels of lead. When the paint chips, or is sanded or stripped, the dust is released into the air. The airborne lead particles can then be inhaled, where they enter the body and bloodstream. Older houses may also contain lead in the plumbing, pipes and faucets.
Toys and furniture made before 1976 may contain high levels of lead that can poison children, especially infants and toddlers who put them in their mouth. Lead can also be found in some children's paint and art supplies, especially those made outside the United States. Other items include craft supplies such as stained glass, jewelry making supplies, and pottery glaze.
Everyone is susceptible to lead poisoning, but children have the highest risk. This is because children tend to put things in their mouth, such as paint chips, resulting in lead entering their body and bloodstream. They also touch everything, then put their hands in their mouth.
Lead poisoning has several symptoms that may or may not occur after exposure. These include difficulty sleeping, headaches, constipation, reduced sensations, anemia, irritability, aggressiveness and possible loss of recently acquired skills in young kids. The first signs of a toxic dose of lead are severe abdominal pains, muscles weakness, seizure and/or vomiting. The victim may also go into a coma.
Exposure to lead can lead to severe neurological problems in the future. Those who have been exposed to high levels of lead may have irreparable damage to their kidneys and blood vessels. Permanent brain damage may also occur. Adults have a higher chance of recovering from lead poisoning without problems, but even small amounts can affect a child's IQ and attention span.
Lead exposure can be reduced by taking several preventive measures. Wash your hands before eating to prevent lead from contaminating your food. Throw away all old painted toys if you are unsure of the origin of the paint. If you live in the United STates and your house was painted prior to 1978, have the paint tested for lead by calling 800-LEAD-FYI.