Lead Poisoning

What is lead poisoning?
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is very soft and found in small amounts in nature. It is usually found in ore deposits with other mineral such as zinc, silver, or copper. Lead poisoning is a negative reaction to a build-up of lead in the body over several months or years. Lead can be highly toxic, acting like a poison to many organs.
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How does lead get into the body?
Some key sources of lead include lead-based paints, dust from old buildings, polluted air, contaminated soils, foods processed in other countries, cosmetics, contaminated drinking water, and hair dyes. Lead poisoning happens when the lead is ingested or inhaled.

Who can get lead poisoning?
Anyone can get lead poisoning, but children under the age of six are at the most risk because they are more likely to play in dirt and put their hands and other objects in their mouths. A little amount of lead can cause danger to children. Lead damages developing brains and nervous systems causing serious harm to a growing child.

What are symptoms of lead poisoning?
Early symptoms of exposure to lead include fatigue, stomach pain, headaches, memory loss, irritability, insomnia, and vomiting. In adults, long term exposure can cause poor muscle coordination, nerve damage, increased blood pressure, hearing and vision impairment, reproductive problems, and retarded fetal development. In children, lead exposure can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral problems, anemia, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, hyperactivity, developmental delays, or even death in large enough doses.


How can I prevent lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning can be prevented through testing household paint and dust for lead, regularly washing floors, windows and hands with soap and water when dust or paint tests positive for lead, keeping children away from peeling paint, and keeping away from houses built before 1978 which are undergoing renovation.
How does lead affect the environment?
On this eagle x-ray, the head would be to the top and the legs and tail to the bottom of the x-ray. The white spots in about the center of the photo are pieces of lead shrapnel. This is about where the stomach would be. Eagles have very strong, efficient digestive systems. The lead is usually dissolved in the stomach and sickness occurs very shortly after ingestion. Often, a lead poisoned eagle will become injured because of impaired nervous system, vision problems, or breathing problems caused by the lead. (Courtesy of SOAR Raptors of Iowa). Lead can be used in the production of ammunition for hunting. This type of ammunition is called lead shot. Lead shot is used by hunters in search of pheasants, turkey, rabbit and deer. Lead shot left on the ground is often mistaken for seeds and eaten by animals such as waterfowl, exposing them to lead poisoning. Scavenger animals, including the Bald Eagle, are in danger of lead poisoning when they eat the carcass of an animal killed by lead shot or exposed to it in another way. We can reduce this impact by switching our ammunition to an alternative—steel shot. Lead is also used in the production of sinkers. Sinkers lost in the water pose a threat to aquatic wildlife that eats them. When ingested even in small amounts, lead can lead to death or impair natural hunting and hiding abilities.
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Besides lead shot, lead also enters the environment through the exhaust of cars (using gasoline with lead in it), industrial processes, and solid waste disposal. All of these things contribute to the pollution of our soils, air, and water, and harm not only ourselves but the ecosystems around us.

References
For more information, please see:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm
http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/pb.htm
http://www.soarraptors.org/HuntLeadFree.html