However, I wanted to re-check exactly what symptoms lead produced, as well as see if there were more symptoms I hadn't known about. I then wanted to compare the symptoms and effects to certain learning and behavioral conditions affecting children (LD, ADD, and ADHD ) to see if there was a connection between those and lead poisoning.
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning, or Plumbism
Firstly, you need to know that some lead poisoning can cause emergency symptoms, such as abdominal pain and/or cramping, vomiting, seizures, staggering or stumbling, muscle weakness, and coma.
However, it is more common for lead poisoning to build up over time and do internal nerve, kidney, and brain damage with either no symptoms or the following symptoms.
Lowered IQ, difficulty sleeping, slowed growth, hearing problems, behavior problems, attention/focus problems, failures at school, kidney damage, irritability, aggressiveness/aggressive behavior, low or reduced appetite, low or reduced energy, headaches, reduced sensations, loss of developmental skills (mainly in younger children), anemia, and constipation are all symptoms of lead poisoning.
Some Conditions That Have Similar Symptoms
Is it possible that in some of the cases of Learning Disabilities (LD), ADD, or ADHD, children might have had early or prolonged exposure to lead? If so was that causing these disorders?
Take a look at the symptoms that are shared with these problems.
The shared symptoms are low IQ, behavior problems, attention/focus problems, difficulty sleeping, irritability, failures at school, and aggressiveness.
Not all children will have all of the symptoms for either Plumbism or any of the other conditions mentioned. Some may have only one.
Is There A Connection?
Comparing the notes above, it seemed to me that some childhood conditions may in fact be caused by lead poisoning. For me, the rise in cases of some of the conditions above was even more proof.
Plumbism develops over time, so it would make sense as a possible reason for mental and behavioral conditions being more prevalent than ever before. This research suggested to me that there must be an underlying cause for these increases and that cause could very well be lead.
I then dug deeper to find an answer.
There have been recent revelations that children in poverty perform the lowest academically and, coincidentally, are the same children who are at the highest risk of lead exposure. Just think about how many children chew on things or put things in their mouth that they aren't supposed to. In a house where lead exposure risk is low, that may not be too big of a deal. However, in a house where lead exposure risk is much higher, this could be extremely dangerous.
Some recent recalls of children's products are dating back to 2003, which could explain why disorders are at an all time high, especially in elementary-aged children. If children were exposed to lead in 2003 (4 years ago), that would make a 1st grader about 2 years old then, a common age for putting items in the mouth. If there are other items with lead in them from that time, which is possible, then it would seem to indicate lead as a significant role in causing learning disabilities in young children.
At one government link (since removed), I also found mention of attention deficit disorder (ADD) as a symptom of lead poisoning.
I could not find the same information elsewhere, but the fact that the symptoms are so closely related and the lead filled items seem to have been around at the right time seems to suggest a link. There's also the fact that at least one government agency mentions it, which when all pieced together, it leads me to believe that many learning problems can indeed be caused by lead poisoning.
Now, obviously, not every case of these conditions will be related to lead, but based on this research, I will have to say that some of them very likely are.
Where Can Lead Be Found
Household paint made before 1978 can contain lead. Even if your home was made after 1978, there may still be old paint in your home, due to someone using paint made before 1978 that could have been stored somewhere. Always check the painted surfaces in your home for lead. Popcorn paint designs (paint with raised bumps) are likely to contain lead as well.
Children's toys and products have now become a possible source for lead contaminants, especially those made in China. Many toys have been recalled due to lead poisoning and it's very possible that some toys that have not been recalled could still contain lead that has not yet been detected.
Because of this issue being so prevalent right now, it is imperative that parents have their children's toys tested for lead, as well as keep a watchful eye out for new recalls. Also, be sure to have children tested for lead regularly. Each time a new product is purchased, parents should always register the product when registration is available, so that they can be notified if there is ever a recall.
Any painted or dyed product made before 1978 or made outside of the United States could contain lead.
Lead can also be found in the drinking water of homes whose plumbing was made with pipes sealed with lead solder. This practice was changed and any new homes will be made with different materials. However, some modern faucets still contain lead.
Soil near houses and highways could contain lead, due to exposure of lead through car exhaust over time.
Lead can also be found in the following: lead bullets, fishing sinkers, plumbing, pipes, curtain weights, faucets, solder (or crafts/hobbies involving soldering), stained glass, jewelry making supplies, pottery glaze, miniature lead figurines, paint sets (even those made for children), art supplies (even those made for children), pewter dishes, and storage batteries.
More Facts And Warnings: What You Should Know About Lead
- 1 in 20 preschool-aged children have high lead levels in their system.
- 1 to 3 children in a classroom of 30 will have ADD or ADHD.
- There is no safe level of lead for human consumption.
- There is a condition called pica, in which children or adults will eat paint chips or soil contaminated with lead.
- Lead has been found in imported candy from Mexico and Asia.
- People and pets can track lead inside the home from contaminated soil.
- Lead poisoning is the number one environmental health issue in America in relation to pediatrics.
How To Reduce Lead Exposure
- Keep your home free of any dust.
- Frequently wash hands and always wash them before eating or drinking anything.
- Get rid of any old toys that are painted or dyed if you are uncertain about them containing lead.
- Let tap water run at least 60 seconds before drinking it or using it to cook with.
- Never use hot water from the faucet to drink. Drink only cold water.
- Test your tap water for lead. If it tests positive, either install a lead-filtering system or switch to bottled water.
- Avoid buying canned foods from countries outside the US. Some of the cans may contain lead.
Is There A Treatment For Lead Poisoning?
- The main form of treatment is finding and removing the source of lead and making sure the child is drinking water and eating a healthy diet.
- There is also a treatment for lead poisoning called Chelation for extreme levels of lead. However, chelation is considered a controversial treatment for ridding the body of lead.
- There are experts who claim it works, as well as experts who claim that any amount of efficacy it has may not be the worth the risk of treatment.
- Chelation is the process of using chemical agents to bind to the lead, which will in turn cause the lead to be excreted from the body.
The Importance Of Consulting Health Professionals
I am not a health professional. This article was simply written and researched out of my own curiosity and should not serve as medical advice or as a replacement of medical care or advice.
If you suspect you, your child, or anyone else has lead poisoning, contact a health professional right away. Lead poisoning is a serious matter.
If you have any concerns regarding any information contained in this article, consult with a health professional.
*This author welcomes feedback and suggestions in the comments section below.
Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia - Lead Poisoning
Associated Content - Even Very Low Levels Of Lead Causes Brain Damage In Children
About.Com - The Major Symptoms of ADD/ADHD
ChildDevelopmentInfo.com - "About Learning Disabilities"
metrokc.gov - "Lead Facts"
Harvard.edu - "Chelation Therapy For Chilhood..."
Keep Kids Healthy - "Lead Poisoning Treatment"
Health Central - ADD/ADHD Statistics
Associated Content - China-Made Recall: Various Children's...
** UPDATE 4/5/2016: Some sources are outdated. Here are some new sources with similar information & further evidence:
ADHD symptoms caused by lead exposure, new study claims
Kids Exposed to Mercury, Lead at Risk for ADHD
What is Lead Poisoning?