Children Lead Poisoning

Children Lead Poisoning

  Autor NN Team Data: 15.10.2008

Children Lead Poisoning
Lead is a heavy metal, toxic for many tissues and human body enzymes. This was very much used for manufacturing the paints, gasoline, pipes and other products, but nowadays it is prohibited, but it still exists in the old houses and buildings which used it. In addition, once it gets into nature, the lead resists for many years after the first use. Although this metal is very harmful for all of us, the most exposed to the danger are the children as the lead accumulates in their nervous system as they grow. 

Lead poisoning is called saturnism and it is very hard to diagnose. It is fatal is few cases, but the high level of lead in the blood has serious consequences on the child, affecting his mental development and his intelligence. 
Saturnism is not a frequent disease, considering that the lead is not used anymore for manufacturing the common products, but there are houses and building where the old pipes still contain lead. On the old houses walls, there still are traces of paints with lead, and the dust in these buildings is contaminated. 

We said that the lead poisoning is hard to identify because it could occur in children who look healthy. Lead accumulation in the body is made gradually and without noticing, until a certain moment when the level is so high that the effects start showing. 

In children, the most frequent symptoms of lead poisoning are:
  • Irritability 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Excessive fatigue 
  • Abdominal pains 
  • Vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • Pale skin 
  • Learning difficulties 
Most often, children get into contact with lead even in their homes, if they live in an old house or building where there are lead pipes or traces of paint with lead on the walls, although this is not visible. 

On the other hand, the lead is not biodegradable and that's why the ground is still contaminated with this metal since it had been widely used, and if the decontamination is not made, the lead will remain for many years in our environment. Also, the lead was used for a period for cans, and the imported cans might contain this metal although it was prohibited in our country. 

Not least, in some countries there have been cases of saturnism caused by cosmetics or medicine that were supposed to be natural, originating from underdeveloped countries. The kohl pencils frequently used by women also contain lead traces. Lead is easily absorbed by growing bodies. That's why children and infants are the most exposed to the danger, especially because their tissues are more sensitive. More than this, they tend to take everything to their mouth, including paint pieces or dirty objects with lead contaminated dust. Although most children might get sick with saturnism, the most exposed are the little ones who live in old houses. 

The test for detecting the level of lead in the blood, are recommended for children who live in old houses, recently refurbished apartments, whose parents work with lead or use lead as part of a hobby. When these risk factors exist, it is recommended for the infant to be first tested at the age of six months, then once a year. 

Without these tests which detect lead poisoning, the lead may accumulate in the child's body. A very high level might lead to convulsions, and rarely to death. Although it doesn't go that far, the child's brain is the most affected, and the damages are sometimes irreversible. 

Lead poisoning complications in children include kidney problems and nervous system problems, learning and concentration difficulties, behavior disorders, lack of movement control, partial loss of hearing. 

As we expected, the first measure taken to treat saturnism is the interruption of exposure to lead. Without this measure, any other treatment is useless. If the lead source cannot be removed from child's environment, there are measures to be taken in order to make it harmless. For example, sometimes is safer to cover the lead paint well than to remove it. 

If the lead level in the blood of the infant is low, the only treatment is the interruption of exposure to the source. In more severe cases, the drugs treatment will be used. The administered substance "smoothes" the lead and eases the elimination through urine. 

In order to prevent the child's poisoning, make sure that everybody in the hours complies with the hygiene rules. Before eating and sleeping, the hands must be washed very well, especially if the child came from playing outside. The play ground should be away from large and old streets, from bridges and sites. Before using the tap water, it must be let flowing for about a minute, especially if the building and the pipes are old. Also, you must be very careful when you refurbish the house. The most recommended is that the little ones are not at home during refurbishing. If you have no other option, they shouldn't eat or sleep in refurbished rooms in order not to swallow or inhale the dust lead particles. 

Read the English version of this article: Children Lead Poisoning