Lead is highly toxic. Exposure to it can be dangerous, especially for children who are 6 or younger. It is important that every parent know about where lead can be found, and how to protect your children from exposure to lead. It is also important to know what to do if you or a member of your family is exposed to lead.
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 lifetime.
Lead can affect anyone, but children ages 6 and younger are at particular risk of lead poisoning because the bodies of children in this age group develop rapidly and they frequently place their hands, toys, and other objects that could have dust from lead-based paint in their mouths.
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 hyperactivity
Loss of appetite
Reduced attention span
Find out if your child has elevated blood lead levels. You can test your child for lead poisoning by asking your pediatrician to do a simple blood test or by visiting a testing provider in your area. Children with elevated blood lead levels can have serious health effects. If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
Damage to the brain and nervous system
Behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity
In rare cases of acute lead poisoning from ingestion of lead, children can suffer seizures, coma and even death.