Lead Poisoning in Children

While exposure to lead can be hazardous to anyone’s health, it’s particularly dangerous for the developing brains of children.

Where Lead Exposure in Children Takes Place

At one in the history of the United States, it was acceptable to sell products that included lead as an ingredient, like paint and gasoline. Nevertheless, it is still possible for a child to be exposed to lead, even today. One potential source of contamination is household dust, which in some instances can contain lead particles, particularly in the case of older homes. Children may accidentally ingest lead particles when they are playing in the dirt or even engaging in regular play. They may also be exposed to lead through drinking water that has come through lead pipes.

Lead exposure can also occur through some domestic and imported toys coated in lead-based paint. For example, vintage toys made in the 70s and 80s may contain some lead. As the toy degrades over time, embedded lead and other metals will release, exposing children to these toxic materials.

A lead-containing glaze is often used to make traditional pottery and ceramic dishes. The glaze is used to paint the porous clay, known as earthenware so that it can allow the piece to function as a dish to hold liquid or food. The glaze may contain lead to facilitate the melting of glaze particles. It is possible to be exposed to lead through imported metal cans and specific types of older vinyl blinds on windows.

What is a Safe Amount of Lead?

For children, any exposure to lead is unsafe. Ther have been cases of children who were exposed to as little as 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood who endured significant decreases in cognitive processes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends intervention and evaluation by a medical professional anytime a child is exposed to lead because there is no safe amount of lead to which a child may be exposed.

What are the Symptoms Associated with Lead Poisoning?

In many instances, children who have high levels of lead in their blood will not outwardly display symptoms. As the level of lead in their blood continues to rise, the child might experience a decrease in appetite, pain in the abdomen, constipation, or pain in their head. If the central nervous system gets involved, the child may show signs of lethargy, decreased activity, and agitation, and as the symptoms escalate, the child may display stupor, begin vomiting, or experience convulsions.

What About Long-Term Exposure?

Many of the instances of lead exposure in the U.S. today involve long-term symptoms that are most frequently quantified using IQ tests. In some studies, researchers have examined the level of lead found in teeth or bones. The results revealed an association between aggression, delinquency, and dysfunctional attention and elevated levels of lead in the bones.

What Kind of Damage is Caused by Lead?

The primary function of the nervous system is affected by lead. But neurodevelopmental effects are not the only possible consequence of lead exposure. One potential target is the kidneys, as well as an increased likelihood that those exposed as children may develop hypertension as adults. Exposure to lead may also result in the body being unable to metabolize certain essential nutrients, including iron and vitamin D.

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