Lead Poisoning

Individuals swallowing material containing lead or breathing in lead dust can stay in the body and cause serious health ailments. Sometimes, it can take months or years for the lead to accumulate in the body resulting in the lead poisoning. Young children are particularly at increased risk of lead poisoning which can affect their mental and physical development. Lead was commonly used in the house paint and children living in the older houses are more likely to have exposure to high level of lead. It is not possible to taste, see or smell lead. Lead exposure can affect all the system in the body and can often occur with no obvious symptoms which can go unrecognized.


The symptoms of lead poisoning do not usually occur until the lead has reached a dangerous level in the body. Lead poisoning can involve several parts of the body and commonly it can accumulate slowly over time. It is particularly harmful to the children as their nerves and brains are in the process of developing. Unborn infants are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning. Some of the common symptoms of lead poisoning among the children include developmental delay, abdominal pain, vomiting, fatigue, learning difficulties, weight loss, hearing loss, seizures and irritability. Lead poisoning among the adults includes high blood pressure, mood disorders, headache, a problem with concentration, muscle pain, reduced sperm count and miscarriage or premature birth with pregnant women.

Sources of lead poisoning

Lead is naturally present in the earth’s crust but has become widespread with the mining and burning fossil fuels. Homes built before 1977 are likely to have lead-based paint which was used both inside and outside the houses. Other sources of lead include;

  • Fishing sinkers and curtain weights
  • Toys and furniture painted before 1976
  • Art materials
  • Drinking water if pipes were connected with lead solder
  • Lead-contaminated soil from leaded gasoline or paint settle that can last for years
  • Toys and products made abroad
  • Certain cosmetic material
  • Exposure from occupations such as mining, pipe fitting, construction sites that can attach to clothing and reach households


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children at the ages of 1 and 2 should be screened for lead. A blood test can indicate if a problem exists. The lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL). Levels between 2 and 10 mcg/dL should be discussed with the physician. Additional tests can include bone marrow biopsy, iron level, X-ray of the long bones, a complete blood count (CBC) and coagulation studies.


The initial step involved in the lead poisoning is to remove the source. Among the severe cases, the treatment involves the chelation therapy where the oral medication is administered which attach to the lead and is excreted as urine. The EDTA chelation therapy is optional for those who cannot tolerate the conventional chelation therapy and is administered as injection.