What does lead poisoning do to adults?

Lead poisoning is harmful to adults and children.
Lead poisoning is harmful to adults and children.

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the earth’s crust. Excess lead buildup in the body can cause lead poisoning. Although lead poisoning primarily affects children, it can also prove to be dangerous in adults. Lead poisoning signs and symptoms include

What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning is caused by the accumulation of lead in the body. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Small children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can cause seizures, unconsciousness and even death.

Lead circulates and reaches the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It accumulates in the teeth and bones over time. During pregnancy, if there’s a high lead content in the bones, the fetus may be affected.

Lead exposure at any level is harmful, which can be prevented.

What are the sources and routes of lead exposure?

People can be exposed to lead through environmental and occupational sources, which may include

  • Mining
  • Burning fossil fuel (such as diesel and petrol)
  • Lead-based paints
  • Lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes soldered with lead
  • Lead solder in food cans
  • Lead-contaminated soil released from gasoline or paint 
  • Household dust may contain lead from lead paint chips
  • Glazes in some ceramic or chinaware
  • Toys and other products
  • Tiro, an eye cosmetic, has been associated with lead poisoning
  • Some traditional herbal medicines and folk remedies
  • Tamarind used in Mexican candies that contains lead

People spending time in firing ranges are at an increased risk of exposure due to lead bullets. People working in auto repair, mining, pipe fitting, battery manufacturing, painting and construction are at a high risk of lead exposure.

What are the complications of lead poisoning in children?

Children are four to five times more likely to absorb lead. They are at the highest risk of lead poisoning because it affects physical and mental development. Exposure to low levels of lead can cause damage over time in small children. The biggest damage it causes is irreversible damage to brain development. The warning signs in children include

In newborns

  • Premature birth
  • Significantly low birth weight
  • Slow growth

How can you keep yourself and your family safe from lead?

The following tips may help to prevent lead poisoning

  • Eat or drink in a lead-free area.
  • Use wipes or lead-removal products to clean hands before eating food.
  • Shower and change clothes immediately after working around lead-based products.
  • Work in well-ventilated areas.
  • Clean dusty surfaces to prevent the accumulation of lead particles.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/22/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

Mayo Clinic


CDC


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