Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal that can be found in many common household items such as batteries and paint. Lead poisoning or toxicity is a serious medical condition that is due to the build-up of lead in the body.
It is important to note that lead is toxic even in small amounts. Exposure to even low levels of lead can cause health problems over time.
A major source of lead exposure in North America is lead-based paints. Although the use of this type of paint has been banned since the late 70s in homes, furniture and children’s toys, there are still older homes and apartments with lead-based paint on the walls.
Lead usually enters the body when it is inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin.
Once lead enters the body, it is distributed throughout the system via the bloodstream. Basically, it can accumulate in any organ and tissue of the body. However, most lead is stored in the bones.
Even though adults are at a lower risk of lead poisoning, it is still dangerous. Adults may experience symptoms such as high blood pressure, muscle and joint pain, numbing or tingling of the extremities, headache and memory loss.
If you suspect that you have been exposed to lead, it is important to seek medical attention.
The first line of treatment for lead poisoning is to identify and remove the source of contamination. Once this is accomplished, your doctor will monitor your lead levels and decide whether further treatment is necessary. If treatment is required, chelation therapy is usually recommended. In this treatment a medication is given to the patient that binds to the lead in the body so that it can be excreted in the urine.
If fully eliminating the source of lead exposure is not possible, preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risk. Firstly, washing your hands regularly, especially before meals will help reduce ingestion of lead. In houses with older plumbing, avoid using hot water as much as possible as the heat tends to release the lead within the pipes
Lead poisoning can be a very serious medical condition that should be avoided at all costs.
Until next time, drive safely!
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.