Lead poisoning is the name given to the harm caused by too much lead in the body, usually from months or years of exposure to small amounts of lead in the environment. Lead poisoning can happen at any age, but it is more harmful to young children. It can permanently affect a child's physical health and mental development.
Symptoms of lead poisoning can be very vague and may include irritability, mood changes, weight loss, lack of energy, vomiting, constipation, or stomach pain. In many cases there are no symptoms. Young children who have lead poisoning may have anemia as well as learning disabilities, behavior disorders, and a variety of other developmental problems.
Lead may be present in old paint, metal water pipes, and other substances. Lead-based paint may be a hazard in older homes, especially if it is flaking and peeling. A pregnant person who is exposed to lead can pass it to their baby. Lead can also be passed to a baby through breast milk. The best way to prevent lead poisoning is to reduce exposure to possible sources of lead.
If you suspect you or your child has been exposed to lead, a blood test may be appropriate. Lead poisoning may be diagnosed with a blood lead test that measures the amount of lead in the blood.
Treatment of lead poisoning begins with removing sources of lead from the home and workplace. Providing balanced nutrition to a person who has lead poisoning is also essential. Chelation therapy is often used to treat severe lead poisoning. A medicine binds to the lead and allows it to be released in urine.
Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & R. Steven Tharratt MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology & Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine