Lead is a toxic metal present found in earth’s crust. Its rapid and vast use in the modern times for various purposes has given rise in across the world to significant environmental pollution, a considerable level of human exposure and serious public health problems.
Can Lead Poisoning be Reversed?
Lead can cause severe consequences to the human body, these are irreversible. However, some symptoms can be treated or reversed. Fortunately, most countries are taking some control measures, which have brought good results lowering the population-level blood lead concentrations, since it is confirmed that there is no a “safe level”.
It is quite easy for people to get exposed to lead poisoning either through their workplace or in the environment they live. Lead enters the body mainly through breathing in lead particles produced by burning of materials which has lead like during foundry activities, recycling in unsafe conditions or pickling of lead paint. Leaded petrol used widely in automobiles is also a primary cause of inhalation of lead particles along with contaminated dust food, or water like water channeled through lead pipes or food packed in containers with lead enamel or welded with this metal.
Another possible source of lead poisoning is through use of cosmetic products and traditional medicines.
Children are particularly at risk for inhalation of lad particles because, depending on the source of contamination, they can absorb 5 times more lead than a normal adult. As if this was not enough, their habit of putting things in their mouth puts them at risk to swallow or suck objects that contain lead or are coated with this metal like putting soil which has lead in it in their mouth or swallowing flakes from a paint which has lead. Exposure to lead through this way is even greater in children with a condition called PICA which stands for Persistent and Compulsive Craving to Ingest Non-Edible Substances like door frames or furniture. In Senegal and Nigeria, exposure to soil and dust which are contaminated and has particulates of lead is primarily due to recycling of batteries and mining activities which has led to massive lead poisoning in children, which have already claimed many lives.
Once inside the body, the lead breaks down and starts to accumulate in vital organs of the body like the brain, liver, and kidneys. The teeth and bones also act as a storehouse for lead. This stored lead then circulates in the blood especially during pregnancy and poses a threat to the fetus. Children with malnutrition are more vulnerable to lead because they tend to absorb more lead due to deficiency of other vital nutrients like calcium. The groups at greatest risk are small children, developing fetuses, and malnourished children.
How Lead Poisoning Affects a Children’s Health?
Lead poisoning can have dangerous consequences affecting the overall health of a child. If the degree of exposure is high, the brain and the central nervous system get affected resulting in coma, seizures, and even death. A child who is able to survive an episode of lead poisoning will be left with some serious sequelae like mental retardation or behavioral disorders.
It has also been proven that at lower exposure levels without causing symptoms, previously considered risk-free, lead poisoning can cause very diverse alterations in several systems of the human body. In children, it can affect, in particular, the brain´s development, which in turn leads to a reduced IQ, behavioral changes -for example, decreased ability to concentrate and increase of antisocial behavior- and lower school performance.
Lead poisoning can also cause anemia (a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood), high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, immune toxicity and toxicity to the reproductive system. It has been demonstrated that the behavioral and neurological effects of lead poisoning are permanent.
As to how much lead content in the blood is safe remains unknown. It has been confirmed, however, that the higher the level of exposure to this metal, the more is the severity of the symptoms and an increase in the health effects of the individual. Even blood concentrations that do not exceed 5 μg / dl – a level that until recently was considered safe – is seen to be associated with an adverse effect in a child’s intelligence, as well as behavior problems and learning difficulties because of lead poisoning.