Definition of Poisoning, lead
Poisoning, lead: An environmental hazard capable of causing brain damage. In the US lead poisoning is formally defined as having at least 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. (The average level of lead, for people ages 1 to 70, is 2.3 micrograms.)
The lead may come, for example, from lead-containing paint, leaded gasoline, etc. Lead was used in household paint until 1978 and was also found in leaded gasoline, some types of batteries, water pipes, and pottery glazes. Lead paint and pipes are still found in many older homes and lead is sometimes also found in water, food, household dust and soil. Lead can be a workplace hazard for people in certain occupations.
Diagnosis is by blood test: Blood lead levels of 10 ug/dL or greater are dangerous to children, even if the person has no apparent symptoms.
A diet that is high in iron and calcium can help protect people against absorbing lead. Treatment of lead poisoning is by chelation therapy, usually in the hospital. Treatment cannot repair damage to the brain done by lead poisoning, but may prevent further damage.
If you think your home has high levels of lead:
Some Lead Information
People can get more lead in their bodies if they:
Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
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Historical Note: Dr. Julian Chisolm (1921-2001) is credited with saving the lives of hundreds of children from lead poisoning by introducing a treatment called chelation in 1968. It remains the primary way to remove lead from the blood in severe lead poisoning. Chelation involves injecting a chemical into the blood that bonds with the lead, forming a compound that can be excreted in urine. Chisolm also devised a finger-stick test that made it possible to diagnose the early stages of lead poisoning in children quickly and economically.
Current Situation: While severe lead poisoning has now largely disappeared in the US, low-level poisoning remains a problem, especially in inner-city housing built before 1960. A study done by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in 1999 found that nearly 900,000 American preschoolers had lead levels that could hurt their health or their ability to learn.
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012
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