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Lead is a nonessential metal. Lead in the body is unnatural. Lead poisoning results from the consumption of lead in some form. Children, with normal hand-to-mouth activity, ingest substantial amounts of lead from household dust when deteriorating lead-containing paint is present. It takes little lead to cause lead poisoning. A child can become severely lead poisoned by eating one milligram of lead-paint dust (60-80 ug/dl), which is equivalent to about three granules of sugar each day during childhood. To achieve blood-lead levels of 36 ug/dl, a child would have to eat just the equivalent of one granule of sugar a day. Lead-containing dust also may be inhaled by children through respiration.
Anyone who consumes lead may become poisoned. The highest incidence is in children between one and six years of age, but especially those between one and three. It is the best known environmental cause of illnesses in children. Children at the developmental stage of placing hands and objects in mouth are the most likely to consume lead if it is present in their environment.
A history of pica, when present, is strongly suggestive. However, pica is not a prerequisite for lead poisoning. Lead poisoning results mostly from ingestion lead-laden dust.
There is no precise direct correlation between blood level and clinical manifestations. Children with blood lead levels greater than 100 ug/dl may occasionally appear clinically well, and children with blood lead level 30-35 ug/dL may be symptomatic. The probability of severe symptoms increases with the increase in exposure to lead, and is greater the higher the blood lead level is.
If blood lead levels are low, there may be no obvious symptoms of lead poisoning, although even low levels of lead may alter physiology and impact child development. Studies have shown an increase of blood lead from 10 μg/dL to 20 μg/dL results in an average decrease in IQ of approximately 2 points. That is why it is important to screen young children for lead poisoning.
Symptoms in young children may develop insidiously and may abate spontaneously. The following symptoms may occur:
Severe and often permanent mental, emotional and physical impairment can result from lead poisoning. In addition, neurological deficits such as learning disabilities, mental retardation, seizures and Encephalopathy may occur.
Reduce exposure of young children to lead:
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