Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning hazard

Last Updated February 21st, 2019

What Is Lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal. It is present in a variety of products that we use every day. This includes masala spice mixes, cosmetic products, paints, plastics and vehicle fumes. Hence, lead abounds in the atmosphere as well as soil and even in everyday foods. Therefore, it can enter the body through ingestion and inhalation. Unlike other metal ions such as sodium, potassium, and calcium, which are vital to the health of the body, the human body has no use for lead. However, when this substance does find its way into the body, it may end up being used in the construction of bone tissue and even muscles.

 

What Is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning hazardA certain amount of lead can be tolerated without harmful or adverse effects on one’s health. However, in larger doses, lead is highly toxic or poisonous to the body and it can produce a variety of severe problems. There are two ways in which lead poisoning can happen. The person may be exposed to a large dose of lead over a short period of time. Alternatively, he or she suffers repeated exposure in smaller quantities over a prolonged timeframe.

The former can occur when someone inhales lead dust or swallows an object made up of lead or containing large quantities of it. Lead in the body can accumulate over the long-term through repeated low-risk exposure. For instance, long-term exposure to fumes from vehicles using leaded petrol or drinking water that is delivered through lead pipes. Another possible pathway is occupational exposure through mining and industrial manufacture of products such as paints.

This toxin is capable of disrupting nearly every system in the body. However, the nervous system is the most sensitive to lead toxicity. Patients may present with severe neurological problems such as convulsions and coma. In fact, in serious cases, lead can be fatal.

 

What Are The Some Risk Factors For Lead Poisoning?

Since lead is present in the household, environmental and industrial settings, it is quite difficult to escape exposure. However, it should be borne in mind that young children are more vulnerable than other age groups to the toxic effects of this substance. This is due largely to their tendency to explore objects with their mouths. The risk is higher in homes where the paint is peeling away from the walls or where old leaden pipes continue to be used.

Here is a more comprehensive list of potential risk factors:

  • Young children are, particularly at risk.
  • Fuel exhaust in countries where leaded petrol continues to be used.
  • Occupational exposure in industries such as mining.
  • Plastic products.
  • Lead acid batteries.
  • Paints.
  • Cosmetic products.
  • Canned foods.
  • Indigenous or herbal medicinal preparations that are not subject to stringent regulations or quality control.
  • Water contaminated as it passes through lead pipes.
  • Deficiency of iron, calcium and vitamin C promotes absorption of lead in the body.

 

What Are The External Signs Of Lead Poisoning?

lead poisoning water pipesGenerally, if the level of lead in the blood reaches 10mcg/dL, it is considered serious cause for concern. The patient will most probably suffer irreversible damage. There is no clear consensus on a safe lower limit since symptoms of lead poisoning have also been observed in individuals with about 5mcg/dL of lead in their blood.

Lead poisoning does not usually produce clearly identifiable symptoms. As the toxic heavy metal accumulates gradually in the body with repeated low-risk exposure, symptoms may take many months or even years to show up. In children, the effects of lead toxicity generally become apparent only in the long term in the form of developmental defects, growth deficits, and cognitive impairment. Lead also affects the kidneys and impairs the ability of the body to produce hemoglobin.

A few or more of the following symptoms may be present:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Constipation.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Irritability.
  • Sensory deficits such as hearing loss.
  • Weight loss.

In cases involving acute exposure, patients may display the following signs:

  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of balance and coordination.
  • Mental confusion.
  • Seizures.

 

What Are The Complications?

As we have seen, lead is a potent neurotoxin. It can give rise to a variety of disturbing neurological and physical symptoms such as:

  • Ataxia.
  • Anemia.
  • Hearing impairment.
  • Speech deficits.
  • Reduced IQ in children.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Delayed or impaired growth in children.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Difficulty conceiving.
  • Convulsions and coma.

 

How Is Lead Poisoning Diagnosed?

In the earlier stages of chronic exposure, there may be no noticeable symptoms. Hence, the condition can easily go undetected until it reaches a severe or critical level. Patients with acute exposure (i.e., those who have ingested or inhaled high doses of lead) should be hospitalized immediately. If a doctor suspects metal poisoning as the cause of the symptoms, the most reliable way to detect unsafe levels of lead in the body is through blood tests. Depending on the nature of the symptoms, doctors may also recommend specific procedures such as bone marrow biopsies in order to assess lead content.

 

What Is The Best Way To Treat It?

Lead poisoning waterIn some countries, regulations dictate that young children regularly undergo screening for exposure to lead. This will ensure that toxic exposure is identified well before it escalates and gives rise to serious and long-term problems in children.

Those who have already developed symptoms can certainly be treated. What this will achieve is to prevent further damage. However, the damage that the body has already sustained cannot be reversed. The patient will most likely be treated through a method known as chelation therapy. This involves introducing chelating agents into the body; specifically, into the bloodstream. These are agents that actively seek out lead ions and bind to them, preventing them from being absorbed by the body. Both are then ejected by the kidneys through urine. This treatment is considered highly effective for lead poisoning although its use in other settings is considered controversial.

In adults, it is possible to achieve full recovery following mild poisoning. However, in children, there is a danger of long-term deficits. Hence, it is important to find out the source of exposure and to actively avoid it as far as possible.

 

Safety and prevention

Lead is highly ubiquitous in the environment, even within our own homes. The good news is that it is possible to cut down on toxic exposure to lead. However, this calls for dedicated and large-scale collaborative efforts on the part of governments and industries to ensure that lead is removed from consumer products, fuels, foods and the atmosphere. Miners and factory workers should be provided with adequate protection to ensure that their health is not compromised in any way due to occupational exposure.

Such initiatives will need to be supported by awareness on the individual and community level to ensure that children and adults alike are aware of the risks. It is necessary for citizens to come together to put sufficient pressure on policymakers. This will ensure that legislation and regulations are put in place to force manufacturers to cut down on lead content in their products.

 

Facts

  • No amount of lead exposure is deemed safe for human beings, especially children.
  • Exposure to lead in pregnant women can cause severe birth complications such as pre-term birth, miscarriages, still-born babies and several developmental issues in the baby.

Facts

  • The levels at which children absorb lead from the surroundings is 4-5 times higher than those of adults.
  • Lead immediately mixes with the bloodstream and reaches vital organs such as liver, kidneys, brain etc.

Facts

  • Mental retardation and behavioral disorders are seen in children who are exposed to severe lead poisoning.
  • In 2015 alone, lead poisoning claimed lives of more than 450,000 individuals worldwide.

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • If you live in an area where chances of lead poisoning are high (mining or industrial areas), make sure that your house is cleaned and mopped daily.
  • In such scenarios, keep a check on where your child goes to play and/or spends substantial time.
  • Wash hands every time you come home and before eating anything.
  • Increase the intake of calcium, iron, and vitamin C for an individual diagnosed with lead poisoning.
  • Old building and houses (1960s-70s) should be repainted with lead-free paint.
Don'ts
  • Burn painted boards, magazines, newspapers etc inside or near residential areas.
  • Go barefoot on soil near highways and heavy traffic areas, as it is highly contaminated with lead.

 

 

 

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Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Tissue Transglutaminase Antibody (tTG) Test Transglutaminase is an enzyme present in our body and is involved in protein metabolism. A tTg test is…
lp-pla2
LP-PLA2 Test The LP-PLA2 test is a test which is carried out to assess the levels of Lipoprotein-Associated Phospholipase A2…
immunoglobulin M
Immunoglobulin M Test Immunoglobulin M is the largest and the first produced antibody which helps in the prevention or fighting of…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
quinoa salad
Quinoa : A prodigious superfood you need to include in your diet today! Quinoa - what is so special about this native South American grain that has taken the world by…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
bananas exercise
10 health reasons why you should go “bananas” over bananas! Bananas:The world's most popular fruit comes with a host of unbelievable health benefits. Find out how you can…
ashwagandha brain
Ashwagandha: The best-kept secret of Ayurveda now revealed! Ashwagandha literally means "smell of horse". Don't get bogged down by that one tiny detail because this ayurveduic…
The complete “what to eat” guide for gluten intolerance Does eating breads and pastas often makes you nauseous? Gluten intolerance is a common reason why you might…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
Bubble Tea: Bubbling with nutrition or a hidden sugar mine? The tapioca pearls present in the tea looks like bubbles and hence the name bubble tea became popular.…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
shoudler exercises
Keep your shoulders pain-free with these shoulder exercises Shoulder exercises are important in order to prevent chronic back and neck pain. Learn more about how you…