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Lead is a cumulative toxicant that impacts several systems in the body, significantly harming younger children. Lead in the body is distributed throughout the brain, liver, kidneys, and bones. It is stored in teeth and bones, where it builds up over time. Human exposure is generally assessed by measuring blood levels of lead. Lead from bones is released into the bloodstream during pregnancy, becoming an exposure source for a developing fetus.

There is no exposure to lead levels known to have no harmful effects. The crust of the Earth contains the naturally occurring hazardous element lead. However, because to its widespread use, there have been substantial public health issues in many regions of the world, as well as widespread environmental degradation and human exposure. Primary sources of environmental contamination are derived from extraction, smelting, production, and refining activities and are used in a broad range of products.

More than three-quarters of the world’s consumption of lead is used to make lead-acid batteries for automobiles. However, lead is used in several other products, for example, pigments, paints, solders, stained glass, crystal lead glass, ammunition, ceramic linings, jewelry, toys, certain cosmetics like kohl and sindoor, and in traditional medicines used in countries like India, Mexico, and Vietnam. In addition, drinking water delivered via lead pipes, or pipes joined by lead solder, can contain lead. Most lead used in world trade is now obtained through recycling.

Young children are especially susceptible to lead toxic effects and may experience severe and lasting adverse health effects, especially in developing the brain and nervous system. Information can also cause lasting damage to adults, including increased hypertension and renal injury risks. Exposure to high levels of lead among pregnant women may lead to abortion, stillbirth, premature delivery, and low birth weight. People may be exposed to lead from occupational and environmental sources. Young children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, as they ingest 4 to 5 times more absorbed lead than adults do from any given source.

In addition, the natural curiosity of children, as well as their age-appropriate hand-to-mouth behavior, lead them to slurp up and swallow objects that contain or are coated with lead, such as polluted soils or dust as the dust flakes of decomposing lead-containing paint. This exposure pathway is magnified for children with a psychological disorder called pica (persistent, compulsive desire to eat things that are not food), which can cause them to gnaw on and eat leaded paint on walls and doors, frames, and furniture. Exposure to leaded-contaminated soils and dust from the recycling of batteries and mining has caused massive lead poisonings and numerous deaths among young children in Nigeria, Senegal, and elsewhere.

Lead is dispersed throughout the body’s organs, including the brain, kidney, liver, and bones after it has been ingested.In addition, the body stores lead in teeth and bones, which builds up over time. The lead stored in bones can be released into the bloodstream during pregnancy, thus making it available to the fetus.

Lead Poisoning

Undernourished children are more vulnerable to lead, as their bodies take up more lead if they lack other nutrients, such as calcium or iron. Children who are most at risk are very young (including developing fetuses) and those who are economically vulnerable. Lead exposure has severe consequences for children’s health. Lead damages the brain and central nervous system at greater exposure levels, causing seizures, brain convulsions, and even death.

Children who survive severe lead poisoning can suffer from intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders. At lower levels of exposure, which do not produce any noticeable symptoms, it is now known that lead can cause a range of injuries to different systems in the body. In particular, lead may impact the development of a child’s brain, leading to lower academic performance (IQ), behavioral changes, such as decreased attention spans and increased antisocial behavior, and decreased educational achievement. Lead exposure also causes anemia, high blood pressure, renal damage, immunotoxicity, and toxicity to the reproductive organs.

Lead is known to have permanent impacts on the brain and behavior. There is no known level of blood lead that is safe; children who have blood lead concentrations as low as 3.5 mcg/dL may struggle academically, exhibit behavioral issues, and have learning issues (1). The variety and severity of symptoms and effects also increase with increased lead exposure.

Encouragingly, successful phaseouts of leaded gasoline in most countries and other measures to control lead have led to a substantial reduction in population-level blood lead concentrations. As a result, as of July 2021, leaded motor vehicle and truck fuel is no longer sold anywhere in the world (2). However, much more must be done to eliminate lead-based paint; only 45 percent of countries have introduced legally binding controls for lead-based paint thus far.

The WHOs update for 2021, The Public Health Effects of Chemicals: The Knowns and Unknowns, estimates that almost half of the 2 million lives lost in 2019 due to known exposures to chemicals were attributable to exposure to lead. In addition, lead exposure is estimated to cause 21.7 million years lost in disability and mortality globally due to health effects over a long period (disability-adjusted life years, or DALs), accounting for 30% of the global burden of non-idiopathic intellectual disabilities, 4.6% of the worldwide burden of cardiovascular diseases, and 3% of the global burden of chronic kidney disease.

The Law May Limit The Time You Have To File a Lead Poisoning Claim

Under the legal rule known as “the statute of limitations,” any claim stemming from lead poisoning must be filed within a specific period of time, otherwise, the injured person’s legal claims are barred, and their right to bring suit is lost for all time.

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