American Lead Poisoning Help Association, Inc.

You are not alone anymore...

Lead poisoning is a preventable disease.  Lead does not belong in a body.

As parents of lead poisoned children, we remember which questions first came to mind when the words "lead poisoning" were introduced into our vocabularies.  Please let us know if you have more questions we can try to help answer for you.

At present, a child is considered lead poisoned when his/her EBLL (Elevated Blood Lead Level) is 10 micrograms per deciliter (10 µg/dl).  For years, experts have said that number should be reduced to 5 µg/dl. To read the latest about current recommendations click here.

What is lead?

Lead is a heavy metal used in many materials and products.  It is a neurotoxin.  A neurotoxin is a poisonous substance that damages or destroys nerve tissue.
 
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What are the sources of lead?

Lead is found in paint that was used prior to 1978.  In homes built before 1978 lead paint can be present.  The only way to know is to test the paint with a lead test kit that can be purchased online or at a hardware store. Lead is also found in many other items such as toys, jewelry, and home remedies.  For a comprehensive list of items where lead can be found please click here.
  
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How does lead get into a body?

Lead can be ingested or inhaled.  For example, a child may put a toy that has been painted with lead paint in his or her mouth and ingest lead from that toy.  Food can be prepared or served on a plate that is covered in lead glaze and the lead from the plate can contaminate the food.  Lead dust can be created during home renovations where lead paint is being removed from walls.  Any surface that causes friction, such as opening and closing an older wooden painted window, or an old door that rubs on a doorway causes invisible lead dust, which can be inhaled.  If you are vacuuming without a HEPA filter, lead dust is small enough to 'escape' the bag and float in the air.  Children may also be attracted to the sweet taste of lead and eat paint chips.

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Should there be lead in my body?

No.  Lead should not be in a human body.

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How is lead poisoning diagnosed?

A blood test is the only reliable way to know if there is lead in a body.  A finger stick can be done in a doctor's office to determine if there is lead present in a person's bloodstream, however, a venous blood draw (where blood is taken directly from the vein) is the preferred method to test for lead.

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What is a BLL (Blood Lead Level)?  What do the numbers mean?

A blood test can determine if there is lead in a person's bloodstream.  The test result, or Blood Lead Level (BLL), is given as a number and is measured in micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL).  Click here to view a Blood Lead Level chart.

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What is the prognosis?

Because there are so many factors involved, the prognosis is not always the same for every person exposed to lead.  The prognosis can vary depending on what age the child was when he/she was exposed, the amount of lead that was inhaled or ingested, and the duration of the exposure.  The prognosis for someone exposed to lead can also depend on the general health, diet, and types of medical and developmental interventions he/she receives.  For more information, please visit our links and organizations page to view previous studies and other sites that have additional information on the treatment and outcomes of children who have been exposed to lead). If you would like to share your own story, please contact us at info@alphalead.org as it can be helpful for parents to hear from others who have been in their shoes).

Low levels of lead can be asymptomatic (meaning the person may show no visible symptoms), but continued exposure can result in a variety of problems (please see "What are the effects of having lead in my body").   

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What is the treatment for lead poisoning?

Treatment depends on many of the same factors mentioned in the previous question.


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What are the effects of having lead in my body?  Is there a cure for Lead Poisoning?

When absorbed into the body, lead is highly toxic to many organs and systems and seriously hinders the body's neurological development. Lead is most harmful to children under age six because it is easily absorbed into their growing bodies and interferes with the developing brain and other organs and systems. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are also at increased risk, because lead ingested by the mother can cross the placenta and affect the unborn fetus.

Lead poisoning causes irreversible health effects and there is no cure for lead poisoning. At very low levels of exposure in children, lead causes reduced IQ and attention span, hyperactivity, impaired growth, reading and learning disabilities, hearing loss, insomnia, anemia, high blood pressure, bone illnesses, and a range of other health, intellectual, and behavioral problems. At low levels, lead poisoning may not present identifiable symptoms, and a blood test is the only way to know if a child is poisoned. At very high levels of exposure lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, coma, convulsions, and even death.

Although higher levels of Lead may be treated with supplements of Chelation,
there is no cure for Lead Poisoning.

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What is Chelation?

Chelation (pronounced key-LAY-shun) is the use of a chemical substance that binds molecules, such as metals or minerals, so they can be excreted, usually through urine, from the body. Chelation has been scientifically proven to remove excess or toxic metals from human bodies.  According to Cathy Wong at www.about.com, it was first used in the 1940's by the Navy to treat lead poisoning.  Chelation Therapy  is also used to treat heart disease, but, according to the Mayo Clinic, The American Heart Associate does not recommend this as treatment for heart disease and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Chelation Therapy for heart disease.

Chelation Therapy can cause side effects as the chelating agents will bind to any metals in the body and may remove essential as well as toxic metals.  Typically, people who receive chelation therapy are monitored for side effects which can include things such as mineral deficiencies (ex., anemia) and other problems (ex., increased blood pressure and impaired kidney function). For more detailed iformation on Chelation Therapy, please visit WebMd's page on children's health: Chelating Agents for Lead Poisoning.

Types of Chelation Therapy  

There are three main types of Chelation Therapy that are used for lead and heavy metal poisoning.

1. Calcium Disodium Versenate (EDTA): The most common form of chelation therapy uses a man-made amino acid called EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid). EDTA removes heavy metals and minerals from the blood, such as lead, iron, copper, and calcium, and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating lead poisoning and poisoning from other heavy metals (Cathy Wong, www.about.com).  EDTA is sometimes used in conjunction with dimercaprol (BAL).

2. Dimercaprol (BAL): British anti-lewisite (BAL) is administered through an intramuscular injection.  It may be used in conjunction with EDTA.

3. Succimer (Chemet): This chelating agent is administered orally.  Typically given in capsule form.  It can be taken with or without food, but should not be taken with dairy products as it can bind to the calcium in dairy and not work as effectively. 

 

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What are the myths about lead?

Click here to read interesting information about the myths and history of Lead.
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Can lead poisoning be prevented?

Yes.  Lead Poisoning is a wholly preventable disease.  Being aware of your environment and knowing where lead can hide can help keep you and your children safe.  For more information on the prevention of Lead Poisoning please see...

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Do you have other questions you'd like answered?  Do you have your own story to share?  E-mail us with your questions or comments and we will reply to you and update our site accordingly.  Thank you!