Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood.
Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing fetus.
There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.
Lead poisoning is entirely preventable.
Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust. Its widespread use has resulted in extensive environmental contamination, human exposure and significant public health problems in many parts of the world.
Important sources of environmental contamination include mining, smelting, manufacturing and recycling activities, and, in some countries, the continued use of leaded paint, leaded gasoline, and leaded aviation fuel. More than three quarters of global lead consumption is for the manufacture of lead-acid batteries for motor vehicles. Lead is, however, also used in many other products, for example pigments, paints, solder, stained glass, lead crystal glassware, ammunition, ceramic glazes, jewellery, toys and in some cosmetics and traditional medicines. Drinking water delivered through lead pipes or pipes joined with lead solder may contain lead. Much of the lead in global commerce is now obtained from recycling.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations.
Bridge reconstruction workers
Firing range instructors and cleaners
Remodelers and refinishers
Scrap metal recyclers
Casting bullets or fishing sinkers
Target shooting at firing ranges
Stained glass making
Glazed pottery making
Some folk remedies
Some "Health Foods"
The toxic nature of lead is well documented. Lead affects all organs and functions of the body to varying degrees. The frequency and severity of symptoms among exposed individuals depends upon the amount of exposure. The list below shows many of the key lead-induced health effects.
Fatigue / Irritability
Wrist / Foot drop
Lead line on gingival tissue
Reduced sperm count & motility
Erythrocyte protoporphyrin elevation
Chronic nephropathy with proximal tubular damage
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You can protect your kids from lead poisoning by ensuring that your home is lead-free — ask your local health department about having your home evaluated for lead sources. And have your kids tested for lead exposure, particularly if when they're between 6 months and 3 years old. Kids this age spend a lot of time on the floor and try to put things in their mouths.
These tips can help you reduce the risk of lead exposure:
Be wary of old plumbing. Old plumbing might be lined with lead. If you have an old plumbing system (in homes built before 1970), which used copper pipes and lead solder, you may want to get your water tested. You can call your local health department or water department to find a laboratory that will test your water for lead content. You also can take precautions to limit your exposure. If the water from the cold faucet has not been run for several hours, let cold water run for 30 seconds before drinking it. And because hot water absorbs more lead than cold water, don't use hot tap water for meals.
Keep your home and your family clean. Wash your kids' hands and toys often, and keep dusty surfaces clean with a wet cloth.
Ensure that iron and calcium are in your diets. If kids are exposed to lead, good nutrition can reduce the amount that's absorbed by their bodies. Eating regular meals is helpful because lead is absorbed more during periods of fasting.
Know where your kids play. Keep them away from busy roads and the underside of bridges.
If you suspect that you might have lead-based paint on your walls, use a wet cloth to wipe windowsills and walls. Watch out for water damage that can make paint peel. Don't sand or heat lead-based paint because doing so increases the risk that lead will be inhaled. If the paint doesn't have many chips, a new layer of paint, paneling, or drywall will probably reduce the risk. It's best to consult a professional, especially because other precautions might be needed to contain the lead in the paint.
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