Lead is an element that is found in the environment, and can be taken in to the body through ingestion or through the breathing in of lead dust. Once lead enters the bloodstream it can travel to tissues and major organs, including the brain, liver and kidney, and can even affect bones and teeth on a long-term basis.
The body cannot cope with large amounts of lead, as this element is not one that is found naturally in the human body. Therefore, any excess of lead within the body will have toxic effects known as lead poisoning. Those most at risk are young children and expectant mothers, and their bodies can absorb high levels of lead from lead dust and other lead-based substances. In fact, even smaller quantities of lead can affect young children seriously, and could result in mental and physical problems. Aggression, hyperactivity, reduced cognitive development, and low IQ can also result from quite low levels of lead absorption in children. Higher levels of absorption can result in mental retardation, convulsions and even a coma.
Lead poisoning can also have very serious effects on adults, and those exposed to lead products and dust as an occupational hazard at particularly at risk. Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults can include: hypertension, cognitive and concentration problems, poor memory, headaches, joint pain, impotency, and central nervous system issues. In addition to these health problems, expectant mothers can also suffer a miscarriage, stillbirth, or give birth to an under-developed baby.
There are a variety of sources of lead poisoning, and these increase if you are someone that works with lead products or is exposed regularly to lead dust. Some of the common sources include lead-based paint, soil and contaminated water from lead-based pipes. It is all too easy to find yourself, your kids and your family exposed to lead as it can be present almost anywhere. Because lead dust is very fine, it can be difficult to spot for the naked eye and can therefore be inhaled easily.
If you suspect that you or any of your family have been affected by lead inhalation or ingestion, you should seek medical assistance immediately. Blood tests can help to determine the levels of lead in the blood, enabling your doctor to provide you with further advice and treatment.
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