Lead Poisoning Symptoms

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead poisoning affects 250,000 children under 5 years of age in the United States. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the rates of exposure of children to lead is decreasing.

Lead gradually accumulates in the body due to long-term exposure in the environment. It is especially dangerous to newborns, infants, and small children because the effects on the developing brain may be permanent and irreversible. Initial symptoms in infants and children include:

These initial symptoms may be initially misdiagnosed since most health care professionals don't think of lead poisoning as a possibility. But when weight loss, sluggishness, and slow growth appear as longer lasting symptoms, then the potential for many unusual diagnoses exists and lead is a prime candidate.

The risk of lead exposure all depends upon where you live. Lead paint was often used in houses built before the early 1970s, when lead paint was made illegal. Some older water pipes were connected with lead solder that could leach into the drinking water. Antique toys and those made outside the United States also may contain lead.

Screening for lead poisoning begins with routine visits to a health care professional. The American Academy of Pediatrics developed a three question test to find kids at risk for lead poisoning:

  • Does your child live in or regularly visit a house or child care facility built before 1950?

  • Does your child live in or regularly visit a house or child care facility built before 1978 that is being or has recently been renovated or remodeled (within the last 6 months)?

  • Does your child have a sibling or playmate who has or did have lead poisoning?