We’ve all been told at some time or other to get the lead out. But now the advice is even more relevant.

So, just exactly what is lead and what’s the problem with it?

Lead is a soft, malleable heavy metal. It is used in a variety of every-day items; building, batteries, ammunition. Lead was also used quite widely in paint and gasoline fuel mixtures. Lead is also highly  toxic to animals and human beings, regardless whether it is inhaled or ingested. 

What is lead poisoning?

Exposure to lead can can cause damage to the nervous system and brain disorders. It is a neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissues and bones.

lead paint

Lead poisoning is not something one can just shake off like a bad hangover; its effects can be very longstanding. When children are exposed to even low levels of lead (there is no known ‘safe’ level), they will likely have learning and behavioral problems throughout their entire lives. A new study by a group of Pittsburgh and Boston researchers, chaired by Dr. Herbert Needleman, reexamined over a hundred adults in their twenties, each of whom had been exposed to lead as a child. They had all been through the same examinations eleven years earlier when they were in grades five and six. At that time it was found that the students performed poorly on a number of behavioral and intelligence test.

Eleven years later, these disadvantages persisted. Most had reading disabilities, and many did not graduate from high school. Dr Needleman notes that the effects of low-level lead exposure are permanent, and have a profound effect in adulthood. Lead is so poisonous that very small amounts can harm the central nervous system, even if the children show no immediate symptoms. What this means is that smelters and other potential polluters who may emit lead into the environment are fully deserving of careful scrutiny. Once the lead has entered a child’s body there is nothing medicine can do to reverse the damage to the IQ.

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Here’s an action tip:
Lead poisoning does not just come from smokestacks; it can come in seemingly innocuous ways. There is no lead in a lead pencil, which is actually made of carbon, but there used to be lead in the paints that coated the pencil. These paints still exist, often on old tenement walls, and young children have been known to eat flakes of them as they peel off the wall. They have also been used in glazing’ pottery, so if you are unsure of the providence of the crockery, ask for different type of container – one that isn’t painted.

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