Lead Poisoning FAQs
Lead poisoning is a devastating condition that harms adults and children, especially young children. Lead exposure can cause life-altering changes to a young child’s life, leading to developmental disabilities, memory loss, and organ damage.
Lead exposure can be derived from numerous sources, including lead-based paint, leaded house paint, gasoline, and contaminated tap water. Inhaled lead dust is significantly more hazardous than swallowing lead paint chips and is more absorbable by the human body. Our law firm’s personal injury attorney has answered some of the more common frequently asked questions about the topics below.
- What is Lead Poisoning?
- How Do You Get Lead Poisoning?
- Can Lead Poisoning Be Prevented?
- What is Considered a Permanent Result of Lead Poisoning in Children?
- What Are the Effects of Lead Poisoning?
- How Do I Test for Lead in My Home’s Water Supply?
- What are the Early Warning Signs of Lead Poisoning?
- What Does Lead Poisoning Do?
- Is Lead Poisoning Permanent?
- How Do You Know If You Have Lead Poisoning?
- How Do You Cure Lead Poisoning?
- Is Lead Everywhere?
- How Do You Get Rid of Lead Poisoning?
- How Quickly Does Lead Leave The Body?
- Can a Blood Lead Level Test Identify Lead Poisoning in Adults?
- What Does Lead Poisoning Do To a Child?
- How Does Being Exposed to Lead Affect the Nervous System?
- How Do You Get Lead Poisoning from Paint?
- Who is Responsible for My Exposure to Lead in My Apartment?
What is Lead Poisoning?
Lead particles can poison the body, typically over months or years. Even tiny amounts of highly toxic lead can cause severe health issues.
Children five years and younger are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, often severely affecting physical and mental development. Lead exposure at high levels can be fatal.
Doctors can treat lead poisoning. However, some of the side effects of the accumulated lead toxin are irreversible. Protecting the body from lead exposure is a simple precautionary step in avoiding its damaging effects.
How Do You Get Lead Poisoning?
Inhaling or swallowing dust particles from deteriorating lead-based paint causes most lead poisoning cases in the United States. Lead has also been found in municipal water in older areas where it is transported through lead pipes.
Toxic lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal found in dirt, soil, and water. In highly concentrated areas, the contaminant can wreak havoc on the environment and cause significant health care problems to exposed humans.
Commonly, children exposed to lead contaminants have inhaled or consumed lead dust and paint chips from wall paint, hobby materials, furniture, and old toys.
Other sources of lead exposure include:
- Drinking from lead pipes or lead-solder pipe joints
- Using lead-based ceramic dishes
- Playing or working in lead-contaminated soils
- Using lead materials and crafts and hobbies like constructing stained-glass
- Consuming lead-contaminated spaces
- Using lead-based home remedies
With long-term exposure, lead can cause significant organ damage and irreversible declines in the child’s development and growth. Steps can be taken to stop the advancing accumulation of lead exposure.
Can Lead Poisoning Be Prevented?
There are many factors to follow by households and businesses that can prevent lead poisoning in children and adults. Simple steps include this list:
- Discard any can goods that show signs of damage
- Avoid painted toys from foreign countries
- Maintain a dust-free environment using vacuums (do not sweep)
- Always wash hands before eating or touching food
- Prepare foods and drink using only cold water
- Have the building’s water tested for lead and use bottled drinking water and filter devices when the lead level is high
- Routinely clean the faucets aerators
- Routinely wash your child’s bottles and toys
- Avoid working and playing in the soil around the building
- Only use certified lead-controlled contractors when working on the house
- Never use lead-based paint
- Have your child’s pediatrician test their blood lead level to identify lead accumulation
- Avoid any area painted with lead-based products
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 4 million households with young children are contaminated with lead. Some estimates reveal that 10% of preschoolers have suffered from lead poisoning due to their increased risk of their bodies absorbing lead in rivers, brooks, soil, and materials.
Households that detect the presence of lead in diets, consumer products, soil, brooks, and rivers should have every family member tested for toxic exposure. Steps should be taken immediately to stop the lead contamination source and remove/discard any item identified with the heavy metal.
What is Considered a Permanent Result of Lead Poisoning in Children?
Childhood lead poisoning is often difficult to detect, even in a child that appears healthy. Many of the associated symptoms of lead poisoning will not appear until the body has accumulated lethal amounts.
A few of the permanent signs and symptoms associated with lead poisoning and children include:
- Developmental delay
- Hearing loss
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Fatigue and irritability
- Learning disabilities
An infant can display lead poisoning symptoms when the fetus was exposed to lead when in utero. These symptoms include premature birth, low birth weight, and slow growth.
What Are the Effects of Lead Poisoning?
Even though children are most at risk for devastating side effects from lead poisoning, adults that accumulate a high level of the toxic metal can display common symptoms including:
- High blood pressure
- Abdominal pain
- Concentration and memory challenges
- Muscle and joint pain
- Kidney damage
- Mood disorder
- Abnormal sperm
- Reduced sperm count
- Miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature birth
The symptoms noted above do not necessarily identify the presence of lead poisoning. However, patients can be tested in a doctor’s office from a simple blood draw from a vein or finger prick that measures toxicity in micrograms per deciliter.
How Do I Test for Lead in My Home’s Water Supply?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 20% of lead exposure occurs from contact with contaminated water. Their study showed that up to 60% of babies exposed to lead suffered harm when consuming their formula mixed with lead-contaminated water.
In recent years, many municipalities, including those in Flint, Michigan, were facing massive community problems when a high level of lead was found in the tap water supply. Some problems resulted from lead plumbing materials found in pipes, fittings, faucets, in lead-based solder joints.
Over time, the pipes and plumbing components began corroding, releasing lead into the water supply. Most homes constructed before 1986 were built with lead plumbing. Until recently, national regulations allowed lead-free pipes to contain up to 8% lead.
Some local water suppliers offer free home testing services handled by a risk assessor to provide families peace of mind. Households can also purchase lead testing kits online or from a home-improvement store, collect the sample, and send it to a testing Center.
What are the Early Warning Signs of Lead Poisoning?
In the early stages of exposure, the victim will notice abdominal pain, headaches, concentration and memory challenges, and muscle and joint pain. The signs of exposure typically do not appear until one to six months after single or recurring exposure to the toxic heavy metal in children.
The damaging effects of lead poisoning in its early stages can be minimized by removing its source. Removing the lead poisoning source can minimize the damaging effects in its early stage before it affects the body systems, including the intestines, teeth, kidneys, reproductive bones, heart organs in the immune and nervous systems.
Any child five years or younger is particularly sensitive to exposure to lead, which can cause irreversible damage to the child’s physical and mental development if not removed.
What Does Lead Poisoning Do?
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a toxic level of lead contamination can cross the placental barrier, affecting an unborn child in the womb. The damaging repercussions of lead typically occur when the heavy metal is absorbed and stored in the body’s tissue, blood, and bones.
Once inside the body, the stored heavy metal is released from demineralized bones overtime during the aging process. Older women are especially susceptible to lead damage when their bones start to demineralize after menopause.
Is Lead Poisoning Permanent?
Some side effects caused by childhood lead poisoning are irreversible, especially in young children that suffered brain and Central nervous system damage. While there are effective treatments for lead poisoning, the damage when exposed to lead is often permanent.
The simplest way to avoid permanent damage from lead poisoning is to identify lead-contaminated areas around the house or business. Home-improvement centers and online sources provide lead testing kits to identify a contaminated quantity that could harm children and adults.
Some infants are born with an elevated toxic lead level if the mother had been exposed to the heavy metal before pregnancy. While pregnant, the body will release lead stored in the bone, exposing the developing fetus.
How Do You Know If You Have Lead Poisoning?
Some individuals are unaware that they have been exposed to lead until apparent symptoms arise. Typically, the body responds when the toxic blood lead accumulation reaches a dangerous quantity.
When exposed to lead, common symptoms could include this list:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle and joint pain
- Muscle weakness
- Concentration/memory problems
- Learning difficulties
- Digestive pain
- Reproductive problems in both men and women
- Irritable or irrational behavioral problems
- Kidney issues
- Loss of appetite
- A metal taste in the mouth
Your primary health care physician can order a quick test for lead exposure through a simple blood sample from a vein or fingerprint. The blood test results will show even minimal amounts of lead in the bloodstream.
How Do You Cure Lead Poisoning?
Doctors can treat but not cure lead poisoning to stop further damage and allow the brain and body to heal. Typically, the doctor has to available methods for treating severe cases of lead poisoning, including:
- Chelation therapy – The health care provider prescribes an oral medication that binds the drug to lead particulates for urine excretion. This therapy is often recommended for any child with a 45 mg/dL lead quantity in the bloodstream and adults with much higher levels or those experiencing lead-related damage.
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid injection therapy (EDTA) – This therapy is effective for children who cannot tolerate chelating oral medications. The doctor injects calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid into the bloodstream.
Is Lead Everywhere?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead can be found nearly anywhere, including in the air, soil, and dust. Lead exposure is often the result of eating lead particles (paint chips) or inhaling lead dust.
For decades in the country, lead was used as an additive in gasoline, house paint, lead-acid batteries, and other materials before scientists recognized that a toxic quantity could cause significant tissue and bone damage.
The EPA reports that children, especially fetuses and newborns, are highly vulnerable to the toxic damages of exposure to lead, even at a low level. The heavy metal can harm the child at a higher accumulated quantity, leaving them with poor hearing, learning difficulties, impaired growth, and developmental disabilities.
How Do You Get Rid of Lead Poisoning?
The available lead poisoning treatments have proven highly effective in alleviating some of the signs associated with the condition. However, removing the lead contamination source is crucial to everyone’s health to avoid symptom recurrence from continued accumulating lead exposure.
If the lead contamination source is in the home, the local health care department will recommend methods for identifying and reducing lead exposure to create a healthier environment.
If men, women, and children are exposed to a relatively low quantity, avoiding continuous exposure, especially in the home, is often sufficient to lower bloodstream contamination levels.
How Quickly Does Lead Leave The Body?
The length of time it takes for the lead to leave the body is based on the length of exposure, the toxic quantity, and the areas where the heavy metal is stored. Typically, half of the lead concentration (half-life) can be excreted in less than four weeks when not locked in tissue, muscles, or bone material.
In soft tissue, lead takes up to forty days or longer to be excreted from the body. Any stored toxic lead in teeth and bones can take ten years or longer to eliminate without intervention (chelation therapy, EDTA therapy).
Can a Blood Lead Level Test Identify Lead Poisoning in Adults?
Your health care provider can order a simple blood test to detect lead poisoning requiring a tiny blood sample from a vein or fingerprint. Blood lead testing reveals bloodstream lead levels measured in mcg/dL (micrograms per deciliter).
Medical science reveals that even a tiny small amount of detected lead is unsafe. Studies show a 5 mcg/dL level of lead in children is likely unsafe. Any child with excessively high lead exposure (45 mcg/dL +) quantity blood test result should receive medical treatment.
What Does Lead Poisoning Do To a Child?
According to the National Lead Information Center, lead-related damage in a child is usually due to long-term exposure to toxic metal over months or years at work, home, or daycare centers.
How Does Being Exposed to Lead Affect the Nervous System?
According to the World Health Organization, exposure to lead produces severe consequences to the body’s nervous system that can cause permanent brain and nerve damage leading to a convulsion, coma, or death.
Many young toxin exposure survivors suffer from permanent behavioral disorders and mental retardation caused by toxic lead levels. Even a tiny blood lead level can affect a child’s brain development and reduce their intelligence quotient (IQ) and behaviors, including limiting their attention span and increasing antisocial behaviors.
Tiny heavy metal doses are also known to reduce a child’s educational attainment and cause physical problems, including renal impairment, hypertension, anemia, reproductive organ toxicity, and immunotoxicity.
The World Health Organization acknowledges that any of the behavioral and neurological damages of being exposed to heavy metal, especially in children, are irreversible.
How Do You Get Lead Poisoning from Paint?
Lead poisoning from paint is not typically a single event when children swallow massive quantities of the toxic metal, becoming ill in requiring emergency medical treatment. Instead, heavy metal-related injury is usually the result of accumulated exposure when children swallow small quantities of lead.
Children under two years of age are most susceptible to suffering severe side effects associated with paint-related lead injuries by touching the toxic substance in touching their mouth or swallowing.
Many older toys were manufactured with lead-based paint. Before 1978, most paint used in residential homes and commercial buildings was manufactured with heavy metal, mainly paint used on doors and door frames.
A study by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reveals that over 300,000 children in America of the age five years and younger reportedly have elevated lead levels in their bloodstream (over 10 mcg/dL).
Who is Responsible for My Exposure to Lead in My Apartment?
Has your doctor identified a high blood lead quantity in you or your children or other family members, and you suspect heavy metal products were used in painting your dwelling?
You likely can ask questions and take legal action against your landlord as their tenant, even if you have not developed any health problems yet.
However, filing a complaint to the landlord to create a safer environment and receive compensation can be complicated. Consider hiring personal injury attorneys specializing in premises liability claims and services involving elevated levels of lead and lead paint properties if you have questions about lead exposure in homes or products. Many of these law firms offer a free consultation to discuss your case.
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