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Lead Exposure Especially Detrimental to Children

Lead poisoning is insidious. A child may be seriously ill, but the parent may not know until it is too late. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 22 children across America have elevated levels of lead in their bloodstreams. If left untreated, lead poisoning may lead to brain damage, stunted growth, behavior and learning problems.

Children are highly susceptible to lead exposure. Paint made with lead when it chips can be very dangerous for small children. Some lead paint can be sweet and when sucked on by an infant the lead is absorbed and will show up in elevated levels in their blood. This can be very harmful to their developing bodies especially to their neurological system.

Indicators of lead poisoning may not be immediately recognizable. Often, they mimic symptoms of other illness and may include:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Constipation
  • Inattention
  • Insomnia
  • Sometimes in young children there may be no symptoms

The key to knowing if a child is suffering from high levels of lead is for the parent to request a blood test from the family doctor or local health clinic. In fact, most physicians recommend testing children at ages one and two for lead exposure. The test takes only a few minutes with results usually available within a week.

Treatment for Lead Poisoning

Regardless of how severe the blood lead level is in a child, one of the first steps in treatment is to remove the source of contamination. Because lead can be found in paint, dust, air, water, soil, and household products, identifying the source is important. The local health department and a certified abatement specialist can make recommendations to pinpoint and reduce lead in and around the home.

For severe cases of lead poisoning, physicians may recommend various courses of treatment. Two of the most common are chelation therapy and EDTA therapy. With chelation, medication is administered that binds with the lead and passes through the urine. With lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL, doctors use EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) treatments to treat the blood. Unfortunately, regardless of treatment, it may be impossible to reverse damage already done.