Lead poisoning is characterized by neurological damage and adverse cardiovascular effects due to saturnism. Lead can be found anywhere, but they are associated with lead pipes that leach into the water, older homes with chipped paint, and problems in child development.
Even though lead has been recognized throughout history, whole communities have been decimated due to the invisible, odorless, and tasteless toxin. Lead exposure is even speculated to be a possible reason why some ancient empires failed.
In modern times, the main cause of lead poisoning comes from houses constructed before the 1960s. The paint used in these residences may contain high levels of lead, as it was common practice to use lead-ridden paint before regulations curtailed their usage. When paint chipped off, airborne particles are inhaled, where the lead enters the bloodstream and initiates damage. Lead exposure can also come from paint in antique toys, children’s paint supplies, jewelry making tools, and even the finish on pottery.
Lead was used in the paint due to its ability to speed up the drying time, as well as preserve the finish of the paint. Lead paint was eventually banned in all U.S housing in 1978.
What Makes Lead So Poisonous in the First Place?
Essential minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron can become replaced by lead. These minerals are imperative for the normal biological function of the body, as it regulates the immune response, how the body communicates with muscle, and the ability for the human body to synthesize proteins.
Signs of Lead Poisoning
Often difficult to diagnose as its sometimes mistaken for another illness, lead poisoning typically manifests itself as kidney damage, as these organs are designed to purify the blood system. The kidneys then store the lead, leading to eventual failure. Lead inhibits your body’s ability to use trace minerals. This causes possible neurological damage.
In cases where lead attacks the central nervous system, affected people may experience headaches, migraines, and joint pain akin to arthritis. Tactile sensations may lessen, with an eventual lack of coordination when walking or when doing intricate work. If left untreated, lead poisoning in the central nervous system can lead to coma or paralysis.
Who Are the Risk Groups Most Affected by Lead Poisoning?
Children tend to be one of the groups most affected by lead poisoning. Even though it has declined in the past couple of decades, there is still a significant risk. Children in poorer communities tend to be particularly at risk, as infrastructures have not been updated or maintained as more affluent communities.
Not only is it a matter of exposure, but also how lead interacts with a developing body. Children absorb more lead than adults do, with developing brains being more sensitive to lead. Poisoning manifests itself as poor vocabulary development throughout their lives, a longer reaction time, and poor coordination.
Certain industries have been marked as potential risk groups. Jobs in refining, manufacturing, and home renovation are at risk of lead poisoning. Home renovators may inadvertently stir up settled dust in an older home that may be contaminated with lead.
Unfortunately, lead has implications that may even be generational. Lead can accumulate in the bones, and potentially result in neurological problems in children with affected mothers. The lead may leak from the bone during times when the body requires more calcium, like during pregnancy.
Exposure to even a small amount of lead can have a snowballing effect, making it particularly dangerous. A vulnerability can be reduced by taking preventative measures like washing your hands when dealing with dust – even dust coming from homes that may be lead-free. Older, painted toys may need to be quarantined, especially if you do not know its origins, like toys coming from a garage sale or thrift store.
If you think that your home is contaminated with lead, contact the proper housing authorities. If you know that your house was constructed and painted before the 1960s, then you may have your paint tested.