Lead poisoning is a medical condition that occurs when the body is exposed to increased levels of heavy metal lead. Lead poisoning slowly builds up over time. Obvious symptoms of lead poisoning do not show until high levels of the poison are present in the blood. Low levels of lead exposure over a long period of time can cause lead poisoning. Lead is a heavy metal and is a very strong poison. Breathing in lead dust or swallowing a lead object can cause serious health problems since the poison can stay in the body and cause harm. There are also a small number of cases wherein lead poisoning is due to the absorption of the toxin through the skin. Exposure to lead may be through contaminated food, air, water, consumer products, and soil.
The presence of lead in the environment is due to the past practice of using it in paint and gasoline and its ongoing use in commercial and mining processes. Exposure to lead is difficult to avoid since it can be found everywhere. Lead can be found in paints used in older houses, dust, dirt, construction materials, batteries, and even in new toys. There are innumerable ways for an individual to get into contact with lead. It is difficult to stay away from lead since we cannot see, taste or smell it.
Both children and adults can get lead poisoning. It is harmful to be exposed to lead because once it enters the body it will be distributed by the blood throughout the different parts of the body. It will start interfering with the processes of the different organ systems. Lead is dangerous to the tissues and organs. It can harm the kidneys, intestines, heart, and bones. The nervous and reproductive systems are also affected by lead poisoning. Exposure to lead over time even on low levels can pose harm to a child’s mental development.
Lead is more toxic and harmful to young children because it can affect their developing nerves and brains. Unborn children, however, are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning. The smaller and still developing bodies of children are more prone to absorbing and retaining lead. They can get lead into their bodies when they put lead objects in their mouths or when they swallow a lead object. Touching a peeling or dusty lead object can also get lead poison on children’s fingers. When they eat food afterwards or when they put their fingers in their mouths, the lead on their fingers will now enter their bodies. Tiny amounts of lead can also be breathed in by children.
The general physical symptoms of lead poisoning on both children and adults are usually seen when the levels of lead in the body are already severe. The general physical symptoms are headache; muscle weakness; nausea and vomiting; stomachaches, constipation, diarrhea, or cramping; persistent and unexplained fatigue. Long-term lead poisoning in children can lead to developmental delay; poor muscle coordination; speech and language problems; decreased bone and muscle growth; damage to the kidneys, nervous system, and/or hearing.