Lead used to be very common in house paint in the U.S. Children living in cities with older houses
are more likely to have high levels of lead.
Although paint is no longer made with lead in them, lead is still a health problem. Lead is everywhere,
including dirt, dust, new toys, and old house paint. Unfortunately, you cannot see, taste, or smell lead.
Lead is found in:
Houses painted before 1978. Even if the paint is not peeling, it can be a problem.
Lead paint is very dangerous when it is being stripped or sanded.
These actions release fine lead dust into the air. Infants and children living in pre-1960's housing
(when paint often contained lead) have the highest risk of lead poisoning.
Small children often swallow paint chips or dust from lead-based paint.
Children get lead in their bodies when they put lead objects in their mouths, especially if they swallow those objects.
They can also get lead poison on their fingers from touching a dusty or peeling lead object,
and then putting their fingers in their mouths or eating food afterward.
Children also can breathe in tiny amounts of lead.
There are many possible symptoms of lead poisoning. Lead can affect many different parts of the body. A single high dose of lead can cause severe emergency symptoms.
However, it is more common for lead poisoning to build up slowly over time. This occurs from repeated exposure to small amounts of lead. In this case, there may not be any obvious symptoms. Over time, even low levels of lead exposure can harm a child's mental development. The health problems get worse as the level of lead in the blood gets higher.
Lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children's developing nerves and brains. The younger the child, the more harmful lead can be. Unborn children are the most vulnerable.
Possible complications include:
Behavior or attention problems
Failure at school
Slowed body growth
The symptoms of lead poisoning may include:
Abdominal pain and cramping (usually the first sign of a high, toxic dose of lead poison)
Difficulty getting pregnant
Loss of previous developmental skills (in young children)
Low appetite and energy
Very high levels of lead may cause vomiting, staggering walk, muscle weakness, seizures, or coma.