While some substances are commonly known to be poisonous and damaging to your health such as arsenic, pesticides, toxic cleaning supplies etc. some other substances which could be present in our every day routine are not so obvious and can be equally harmful.
Lead, a metal found in the ground is one such poisonous substance and traces of it can be found in everything around us, in the air we breathe, in the soil we touch, the water we drink and any number of commercial products we use such as ceramics, makeup, pipes etc. on a daily basis.
Poisoning occurs mainly through ingestion or inhalation. The smallest amounts can slowly build up and accumulate over the years and the lead enters your bloodstream it starts to negatively impact every organ in your body as the amount of lead increases, spreads and get stored in tissues and bones.
Lead is especially harmful to young children whose brains and bodies are rapidly growing and developing and exposure to lead is also very dangerous for pregnant women as it can lead to miscarriages or result in permanent damage to the baby’s key organs and the nervous system in utero.
One of the leading and most common causes of lead poisoning is exposure to lead based paint. Because many people don’t know this they won’t check for lead free paint when renovating or painting their home. But it is imperative to understand the health risks associated with lead and to ensure that lead free paint is used in the home and the work place.
As a result of growing concern and risks surrounding lead poisoning, the government passed a law in the late 1970’s banning the usage of lead based paint for new buildings and homes. However, prior to this ban lead-based paint was used almost exclusively in every construction, therefore, individuals living in or frequently visiting these older homes and buildings are at a higher risk for developing lead poisoning due to the regular exposure.
Exposure and Symptoms:
While most lead poisoning takes place over years of exposure to small amounts through every day life (either at home or at work or another commonly frequented place), it is possible to get poisoned very quickly if exposed to a large quantity of lead.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact symptoms of lead poisoning since many of the symptoms can be attributed to other conditions and issues. However, some signs to watch out for in children are:
- Lack of appetite and energy;
- Sudden issues with behaviour such as being moody, angry or hyper
- Struggling with school work and / or demonstrating difficulties with learning new things
- Lower intelligence in comparison to other kids who are the same age
- Smaller physical build and size in comparison to other kids
Adults who have been exposed to and suffer from lead poisoning may exhibit similar symptoms:
- Headaches and a general feeling of weakness and muscle aches
- Change in behaviour and personality, irritable or hyperactive mood
- Problems and changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulty thinking clearly or prone to forgetting things
In very extreme cases where a high enough concentration of lead is found in the body, lead poisoning can lead to serious medical complications like paralysis, seizures, coma and prove to be fatal.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Given the relatively vague and non specific symptoms of lead poisoning, it can be difficult to diagnose. If lead poisoning is suspected by the doctor, they will run a blood test to measure the amount of lead in the individual’s blood.
While treating the poisoning cannot undo the damage already caused, it is possible to get better and the easiest way to do so is to get rid of the source of poisoning and changing your diet. A diet high in iron, minerals and vitamins can go a long way towards decreasing the level of lead in your body.
In some cases where the levels of lead are very high making these changes are not enough to treat lead poisoning, at which point the doctor may recommend chelation therapy. This treatment involves being injected with medication, which binds to the lead in the body. The lead and the medicine are then subsequently removed from the body through peeing.
The most full proof way of preventing lead poisoning is to simply avoid it. Be diligent about what kind of materials and paint you bring into your home. Carefully read the labels from food packaged in tins, some cans are made with lead solder and as a result, the food inside may contain traces of lead. The same goes for traditional, herbal medications and vitamins, as some of these medications can contain lead.
Take a quick inventory of what you have in your home, what you come in contact with every day and try to eliminate the things which contain harmful or poisonous products or find healthier alternatives. In a world where we are continuously exposed to harmful products, it cannot hurt to be too careful; especially when the health and safety of you and your loved ones are at play.