Lead Poisoning Causes, Symptoms, Impacts & Prevention Tips
Created by Sreelakshmi Updated on May 08, 2019
Although lead was used in ancient times to make statues, currency and waterproof lining it was not until Roman times that its use achieved industrial proportions. Simultaneously the first cases of lead poisoning were reported. Lead poisoning in children is preventable if you take precautions and safeguard your homes from lead exposure. Read more tips to protect your Children from Lead.
What Is Lead?
Those brightly colored crayons your child just used to finish his/her masterpiece, the pink nail paint that your daughter just applied or your child’s favorite toy. Have you wondered what is common among all these? Yes, all of them are most likely to have the toxic metal called Lead.
What is Meant By Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning refers to the adverse and irreversible effects which result from the absorption of lead into the human body. Lead can enter the human body by either swallowing, breathing or through absorption by the skin. Children are at a greater risk of Lead exposure as a growing child’s body absorbs more lead and are more sensitive to the damaging effects. Lead exposure can harm even unborn babies. In India, according to the National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning over 18 % of children had unacceptable levels of lead in their blood.
What Are The Accepted Levels Of Lead In Children?
According to the doctors, the accepted levels of lead in children anything below 5 micrograms in decilitre blood is considered low. However, even this level is being reported to the parents so that they can prevent exposure to lead thus leading to high levels of lead in a child’s blood.
Lead Poisoning Causes
How Can Children Get Lead Poisoning? - Lead Poisoning Causes. Lead is part of our daily life. Lead is one of the commonly used, non-bio degradable and toxic metals. It is a commonly occurring metal on the earth’s crust. Causes of lead poisoning can be..
- The water you drink mostly comes from lead pipes
- the air you breathe is polluted by lead emissions
- the soil contains lead which is non-bio degradable
- paints on the walls, low-quality toys, aluminum cans/vessels to ceramic glazes in pottery/dinnerware
- Lead can even be found in certain cosmetics like lipsticks, nail polish and poor quality crayons/ color pencils
- Car Batteries may also contain lead
So, your child can get lead poisoning either through all these or 1-2 things from the above-mentioned things.
What Is The Impact of Lead Poisoning On Children?
There are numerous causes of lead poisoning in children. Children's digestive system absorbs up to 50% of the lead they ingest. Lead gets stored in red blood cells (RBCs), kidneys, bones plus other organs and is difficult to remove from the brain. In children, high retention occurs from birth to age 6 when the brain is developing and lead interferes with its development. Studies have shown that a single chip of paint the size of a thumbnail contains 1 gram of lead and a few such chips can raise the intake of lead to 1000 times the acceptable limit.
Prolonged exposure to lead can result in adverse effects on children including
- behavioral and learning disabilities including shorter attention/concentration
- a decrease in IQ and mental retardation
- damage to the brain and nervous system
- damage to the kidney and gastrointestinal tract
- in the bloodstream, it can damage red blood cells and limit their ability to carry oxygen to the organs and tissues that need it, thus causing anemia
- during pregnancy, the lead from the mother’s blood can get passed over to the foetus giving rise to genetic disorders
What Are The Signs of Lead Poisoning in Children?
Initially, symptoms may not be even evident, and the child might look absolutely normal and healthy. But with long prolonged exposure, the symptoms appear. The long term effects of lead poisoning may result in symptoms like given here...
- pale skin
- sleeping problems
- behavioral changes (such as being irritable or overactive)
- the child might experience stomach discomfort
- poor appetite
- weight loss
Symptoms Of High Levels of Lead Exposure In Children
In higher lead levels, a child may experience following symptoms given here
- severe stomach cramps
- rigid abdomen
- muscle weakness
How Can I Protect My Child From Lead?
Lead poisoning in children is preventable if you take precautions and safeguard your homes from lead exposure. Keep your family especially your children lead safe by following the below-mentioned pointers.
- Wash your child’s hands often especially before eating and bedtime
- Keep the play areas and furniture clean and tidy. As far as possible, prevent your child from touching/licking dusty surfaces and putting hands in mouth
- Always opt for good quality, reputed branded toys and crayons/pencils. The danger of lead poisoning in toys is not a risk limited to products made in China. The National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning Prevention in India has revealed that up to 80% of the Indian toys contain paint with high levels of lead. Tests by NRCLPP showed that even wooden toys made in India contain paints with high levels of lead. The paint which gives a shiny appearance to dolls contains high levels of lead so avoid buying such toys. Always get updated information on the recalled toys and avoid buying them
- Ensure that your child eats a nutritious low-fat diet rich in iron, calcium and Vitamin C as children whose diet is wholesome absorb lesser lead
- Please do ensure your water purifier has the technology to eliminate excess levels of lead
- Use only paints having permitted levels of lead for your homes. The Bureau of Indian Standards has permitted lead content in paints up to 1,000 ppm (parts per million), while WHO and other international organizations recommend up to 600 ppm and are now revising it to 90 ppm. So before purchasing of domestic paints please check the contents and ensure the lead levels are below the permitted standards
- Repair damaged painted surfaces promptly and clean fallen paint chips if any to prevent your baby/toddler putting them in their mouth
- As far as possible, remove and clean shoes before entering a home to avoid bringing in lead from soil
- If you are staying in an independent house/villa; do plant grass to cover the soil in your garden which may have high lead levels
- Besides these get your child’s blood samples routinely monitored to check the levels of lead in it. Blood lead levels in children more than 10 ug/dl (10 milligrams per decilitre is a reason for caution and needs to be discussed with the pediatrician for prompt treatment and avoiding lead exposure
Ways to Create Lead Poisoning Awareness As a Parents
Awareness programmes need to be conducted especially in schools to educate the students, teachers, and parents on the hazards and prevention measures of lead poisoning. Toys are the best companions of a growing child. Thus we need to be extra cautious about the selection of toys for our little ones. Please ensure while buying the paint for your walls it adheres to the acceptable limits of lead in its composition. Let us begin our conscious efforts at our home first to prevent lead poisoning. Let us be responsible for a brighter and healthier Gen Next.
Lead Poisoning Diagnosis & Treatment
How Can Lead Poisoning in children be treated? Okay! So you now know what causes lead poisoning in children and how you can prevent it. But what about the treatment of lead poisoning in children? How do you treat your child who has been found to have lead in his or her blood?
Well, the first step towards lead poisoning treatment is to identify the source of lead poisoning and to remove it from your child’s vicinity. And in case that is not possible for whatever reasons, then try to reduce its possible effects. Also, you may like to speak with your doctor and take recommendations from him or her on how to reduce the lead exposure in your home. As for low levels of lead exposure in children just removing the cause of lead poisoning would be enough to reduce blood lead levels in your child.
But in case, the lead levels in your child’s blood is above the accepted norms then your doctor may recommend Chelation therapy or EDTA Chelation therapy. While both the therapies administer the same medication – it is the difference in which it is given resulting in a different name.
What Is EDTA Chelation Therapy For Treating Lead Poisoning In Children?
In Chelation therapy the medicine is administered orally. The medicine then binds itself with lead in the blood and gets secreted through urine, thus reducing the blood lead levels in children.
"EDTA Chelation Therapy" is given to those children who are not able to tolerate the medicine given in Chelation Therapy. In this therapy, the medicine combined with a chemical called is injected calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is injected. The medicine then binds itself with the lead present in the blood and gets released through urine thus resulting in low levels of lead in the child’s blood.
Did you like the blog on Lead poisoning in children? Please do leave your views and feedback in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you.
| Nov 01, 2012
Very important information and something that not many parents are aware of. Our toys, cheap plastic utensils and house paint all affect our children's health and learning abilities. prolonged exposure is said to lead to loss of concentration, weak memory and irritability.
| Jul 10, 2017
hi.. i am. not sure if alluminium vessel contains lead.. but alluminium is also not safe for cooking or boiling water as alluminium gets accumulated in the body and is difficult for body to clean it out.. so as per my advice avoid using alluminium vessels for kids at least