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Lead Poisoning

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Definition

Lead is a very strong poison. When a person swallows a lead object or breathes in lead dust, some of the poison can stay in the body and cause serious health problems.

Symptoms

There are many possible symptoms of lead poisoning. Lead can affect many different parts of the body. A single high dose of lead can cause severe emergency symptoms.

However, it is more common for lead poisoning to build up slowly over time. This occurs from repeated exposure to small amounts of lead. In this case, there may not be any obvious symptoms. Over time, even low levels of lead exposure can harm a child's mental development. The health problems get worse as the level of lead in the blood gets higher.

Lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children's developing nerves and brains. The younger the child, the more harmful lead can be. Unborn children are the most vulnerable.

Possible complications include:

  • Behavior or attention problems
  • Failure at school
  • Hearing problems
  • Kidney damage
  • Reduced IQ
  • Slowed body growth

The symptoms of lead poisoning may include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping (usually the first sign of a high, toxic dose of lead poison)
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Loss of previous developmental skills (in young children)
  • Low appetite and energy
  • Reduced sensations

Very high levels of lead may cause vomiting, staggering walk, muscle weakness, seizures, or coma.

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