The dull, silvery-gray element known as lead has been used by humans for centuries. Being highly malleable and corrosion-resistant, lead has found its way into everything from pottery to hair dyes to batteries and more. However, its utilization has been on a steady decline in light of discoveries about its toxicity.
We know today that lead is carcinogenic (can cause cancer) and teratogenic (disturbs physiological development). The latter property is partly why lead is so harmful to children. But it’s no good for adults either. Let’s start by taking a look at the potential health effects of lead poisoning.
Clinical Effects of Lead
Lead can make its way into the body through several routes depending on the source. This includes ingestion and inhalation, but it can also enter through your skin. In any case, we have no way to eliminate the element from our bodies, which is why it can easily build up in toxic amounts and remain present for years.
The effects are often subtle and difficult to notice in the early stages. Children absorb it faster than adults. When lead enters the body, it comes in contact with vital organs and causes muscle and joint aches in addition to overall fatigue. Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.
Over time, more severe symptoms can appear, including cognitive decline and anemia. Lead is also known to cause developmental problems in unborn children. Consuming calcium, iron, and Vitamin C can decrease absorption.
Sources of Lead
There are some common sources of lead in the household. If yours was built prior to 1978, which was when lead-based paints were banned in America, then it might contain the element in the paint. It can also be present in water pipes. Certain toys, jewelry and crockery can contain lead – especially if they were manufactured abroad.
Fortunately, it’s not impossible to significantly reduce the presence of lead in your home, if not eliminate it entirely.
Reducing Lead Exposure
Test Your Home: Having your home inspected by a professional will help to measure the presence of lead. From there, a contractor can come in to conduct a lead abatement job. You can check abatement rules here to learn more about what it entails.
Ask for Screening: If you’re worried about your child having exposure to lead in the past, you can have them screened. This is usually covered by insurance, as it involves a simple blood test. The doctor will then recommend an appropriate plan of action if any lead is identified.
Keep it Clean: It’s recommended to regularly mop the floors and wipe window sills with a wet cloth. Encourage everyone to wash their hands often as well.
Landscaping: Bare soil is another potential source of lead, so it’s a good idea to cover it up with gravel or bark chips. Adding some life to your garden with more grass or shrubbery will also help.
The best thing you can do is to get rid of old paint, carpets, and blinds, as these are the main sources of lead in homes.