Lead is poisonous because it interferes with
some of the body's basic functions. A human body cannot tell the
difference between lead and calcium, which is a mineral that strengthens
bones. Like calcium, lead remains in the bloodstream for a few
weeks, then it is absorbed into the bones where it can collect for a
Lead can affect anyone, but children ages 6
and younger face special hazards. In part, this is because the
bodies of children in this age group develop rapidly. It is also
because young children tend to put things in their
It is important to know that even exposure
to low levels of lead can permanently affect children. In low
levels, lead can cause:
- Nervous system and kidney
- Learning disabilities, attention deficit
disorder, and decreased intelligence.
- Speech, language, and behavior
- Poor muscle coordination.
- Decreased muscle and bone
- Hearing damage.
While low-level exposure is most common,
exposure to high levels of lead can have devastating effects on children,
including seizures, unconsciousness, and in some cases,
Although children are especially susceptible
to lead exposure, lead can be dangerous for adults too. In adults,
high lead levels can cause:
- Increased chance of illness during
- Harm to a fetus, including brain damage
- Fertility problems in men and
- High blood pressure.
- Digestive problems.
- Nerve disorders.
- Memory and concentration
- Muscle and joint pain.
Lead poisoning is not easy to detect.
Sometimes no symptoms occur, and sometimes the symptoms are the same as
those of more common illnesses. Some of the early signs and
symptoms of lead poisoning in children are:
- Persistent tiredness or
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Reduced attention span.
- Difficulty sleeping.
| Lead enters the
body through the mouth or nose. Lead is not absorbed through
the skin. A child does not have to eat paint chips to get
lead poisoning. It is more common for a child to get lead
poisoning by swallowing lead dust.
The only way to
know if you have lead poisoning is to get a blood test from your
doctor. Many people mistake the symptoms of lead poisoning
for other common illnesses, such as a cold or the flu.
Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Your family, especially
your children, should be tested for lead. It is the only way
to detect lead poisoning.
In the US,
approximately 900,000 children ages 1-5 have a blood lead level
exceeding the level of concern.
eat healthy foods are less likely to get lead poisoning.
Less lead is absorbed when children have food in their
systems. Fried and fatty foods allow the body to absorb lead
paint is most often found around windows, in kitchens and in
information on lead issues with children,
KY Department for Public
Division of Adult &