If your home was built prior to 1978, there’s a high possibility that lead could be present throughout your home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust and can be found in the air, the soil, the water, and even in our homes. While lead has been beneficial and used in paint, plumbing materials, and other household items, it can be toxic to humans and animals. The dangerous effects of lead have been known for centuries, reportedly dating back to Roman times.
Although lead has been widely used for centuries, the dangers associated with lead exposure has gained more attention since unsafe levels of lead has been found in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan.
Lead Exposure: Who’s at Greatest Risk?
While exposure to lead can lead to a variety of health problems in humans and animals, but lead can have the most detrimental effects to children or pregnant women. The EPA suggests that children are more likely to be exposed to lead because they are prone to putting objects (that may contain lead) in their mouth. An adult’s exposure to lead is more likely if he or she breathes in lead dust when renovating or repair homes containing lead or when participating in a hobby where lead may be used such as stained glass or pottery. Both humans and animals can be exposed to lead through drinking water (as seen in the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan) and food.
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
When an individual has been exposed to lead, it may be months or even years before he or she shows symptoms of lead poisoning. According to the Mayo Health Clinic, many lead poisoning symptoms are not present until the level accumulated lead is high. While an individual, who has been exposed to lead, may exhibit a variety of symptoms, here are some common signs and symptoms to look for:
- Infants and Children: Unborn babies, newborns, and children may have developmental delays, slowed growth, and damage to the developing brain.
- Children: If exposed to lead, may have weight loss, fatigue, irritability, vomiting, constipation, or hearing loss.
- Adults: While infants and children are more susceptible to the negative effects of lead exposure, adults may suffer from neurological issues, high blood pressure, mood disorders, and abnormal or reduced sperm count.
Extremely high levels of lead may even lead to death for infants, children, and adults.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with lead levels in your system or want to limit your exposure, it’s best to try to remove the lead from your home or avoid items or sources that contain lead. Often times, this is enough to reduce the levels in individuals with low levels of lead.
For individuals with high levels of lead, doctors may recommend Chelation therapy, a medication that allows lead to be excreted in urine, or EDTA therapy, which uses ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid.