Early Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

The early symptoms of lead poisoning are difficult to detect, which is all the more reason to learn more about them – especially in the holiday season during which children may be inadvertently given toys containing lead. The signs and symptoms vary depending on the age of the affected person.

Lead poisoning symptoms


·         Learning difficulties.

·         Stunted growth.


·         Delayed development.

·         Learning difficulties.

·         Irritability.

·         Appetite loss.

·         Loss of weight.

·         Sluggishness.

·         Fatigue.

·         Pain in the abdomen.

·         Throwing up.

·         Constipation.

·         Anemia.

·         Loss of hearing.

·         Loss of previously acquired developmental skills.


  • High blood pressure.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Constipation.
  • Anemia.
  • Pain in the joints.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Declining mental functioning
  • Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities.
  • Headache.
  • Memory loss.
  • Mood problems.
  • Reduced sperm count or abnormal sperm.
  • Difficulty becoming pregnant.
  • Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women.


Lead is a naturally-occurring and ubiquitous metal. It can be found in the crust of the earth, in dirt, in toys, in old house paint, in candy, and even in tap water. In addition to its ubiquitousness, it has been used for thousands of years in multiple applications. It is the perfect poison because it cannot be seen, smelt, or tasted – which is the reason that it can exert its noxious effects over the course of years without betraying itself. As a result of all of this, lead can be unwittingly inhaled, swallowed, and – rarely – absorbed through the skin. Once inside the body, it is distributed in the same manner as iron, calcium, zing, and other healthy minerals. Long-term lead exposure may lead to such complications as:

·         Irreversible brain damage.

·         Kidney damage.

·         Nervous system damage.

·         Seizures.

·         Reduced IQ.

·         Reduced bone and muscle growth.

·         Poor muscle coordination.

·         Speech and language problems.

·         Death.

Many uses of lead were banned in the United States in the mid to late 70s. Sadly, other countries have failed to follow this lofty example. Additionally, lead may have been banned but that doesn’t mean it was vanquished. Here is where it can be found:

·         Houses painted before 1978.

·         Toys and furniture painted before 1976.

·         Imported toys and food including candy.

·         Cosmetics.

·         Lead bullets, fishing sinkers, curtain weights.

·         Water flowing through old lead plumbing, pipes, and faucets.

·         Soil contaminated by decades of car exhaust or years of house paint scrapings.

·         Soldering, stained glass, jewelry making, pottery glazing, miniature lead figures, and other activities.

·         Children's paint sets and art supplies.

·         Pewter pitchers and dinnerware.

·         Storage batteries.

·         Food stored in bowls glazed or painted with lead.

·         Folk or home remedies.

An estimated 3+ million workers in the U.S. are at risk of toxic lead exposure. Furthermore, 310,000 1- to 5-year-old American children are found to have unsafe levels of lead in their blood every year. More often than not, children experience lead poisoning from lead-based paint in older homes, but they can also ingest lead orally by sucking, chewing on, swallowing, and generally putting things and fingers in their mouths. Other people who are at risk include:

·         Children younger than 6 years of age.

·         Pregnant women.

·         International adoptees.

·         Refugees.

Certain specialists believe that children without the early symptoms of lead poisoning do not benefit from being tested. Therefore, the CDC recommends parents and doctors to refer to the recommendations of local or state health departments. Some areas – and as seen above, some individuals – present a more increased risk of lead exposure, necessitating more frequent screening. A blood test is the most common method for diagnosing lead poisoning. Other tests include the following:

·         Bone marrow biopsy.

·         Complete blood count.

·         Erythrocyte protoporphyrin.

·         Iron level.

·         X-ray of the long bones and abdomen.

Treatment depends on the quantity of lead in the blood. The body naturally and gradually eliminates lead, but more severe cases may require chelation therapy to assist the organism in secreting lead in urine. Bowel irrigation and gastric lavage are prescribed when someone has potentially eaten a high toxic dose of lead in a short period.


·         Wash hands and toys.

·         Keep home dust-free.

·         Discard old painted toys.

·         Run tap water for a minute before drinking it or cooking with it.

·         Avoid imported canned food.

·         Run cold water.

·         Follow a healthy diet.

Related: Safe Toys and Gifts Month: Which are 2015’s Ten Worst Toys?