How long does it take to get lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning usually takes months or years of exposure to a small amount of lead at home, work or daycare. When exposed to large amounts of lead, it can quickly lead to lead poisoning (acute poisoning).
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, as lead may affect the developing brain and nerves. This may severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can cause seizures, unconsciousness and even death.
Lead circulates to the brain, liver, kidney and bones and accumulates in the teeth and bones over time. During pregnancy, if there’s high lead content in the bones, the fetus may be affected. Lead exposure at any level is harmful, but it is preventable.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the earth’s crust. Excessive lead buildup in the body can cause lead poisoning. Although lead poisoning primarily affects children, it can also prove dangerous in adults. Lead poisoning signs and symptoms include
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memories or concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
- Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women
- Pain or tingling in feet
- Loss of appetite
- Kidney and nervous system damage
Children are four to five times more likely to absorb lead. They are at the highest risk of lead poisoning, as it affects the physical and mental development in the body. Exposure to low levels of lead can lead to irreversible damage to brain development. The warning signs in children include
- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
- Laziness and fatigue
- Pica (eating things that aren’t edible)
- Premature birth
- Significant low birth weight
- Slow growth
What are the sources and routes of lead exposure?
People can be exposed to lead through environmental and occupational sources, which may include
- Lead-based paints
- Burning fossil fuel
- Lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes soldered with lead
- Lead solder in food cans
- Lead-contaminated soil released from gasoline or paint settle
- Household dust containing lead from the lead paint chips
- Glazes in some ceramic or chinaware
- Toys and other products
- Tiro, an eye cosmetic
- Some traditional herbal medicines and folk remedies
- Lead bullets at firing ranges
- Tamarind used in Mexican candies
- Auto repair, battery manufacturing and construction industries
How is lead poisoning diagnosed?
The physician may carry out the following tests to confirm lead poisoning
- Physical examination
- Blood tests to to measure lead levels in the blood
The physician may also ask the patient about:
How is lead poisoning treated?
Treatment of lead poisoning involves
- Removing the source of lead
- Good nutrition
Before the commencement of treatment, it is necessary to measure the blood lead level. Lower blood lead levels don’t require treatment. However, concentrated blood lead levels require treatment. In individuals with severe lead poisoning, the physician may prescribe chelating medicines that bind to lead and pass out through urine. Medications may be given either orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of the lead poisoning. Medicines that get rid of lead also get rid of other vital nutrients. Hence, it is necessary to replenish the lost nutrients with dietary supplements and good nutrition.
After treating the patient, it is necessary to identify the source of lead poisoning and remove it.
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