Lead Is Dangerous; Everything is a toxin, or has the potential to be, in the field of toxicology. In the 1500s, Swiss physician Paracelsus, the father of toxicology, coined his famous dictum: What is there that is not poison? All things are poison and nothing is without poison. Solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison. Lead, however, is toxic at any dose. It serves no purpose in our body. Unlike most other toxins that our body can eliminate through metabolism and excretion; so our body has no ability to purge lead.
As a clinical toxicologist, they care for children and adults who have expose to lead; also assure that those individuals receive the best possible care. Lead can enter the body through a number of different routes; so depending on the source of the element. Most commonly, it enters the body through ingestion or inhalation.
Blood lead level
As an example, toddlers are constantly placing items, including their hands, in their mouths. If a toddler lives in an old home that was previously paint with leaded paint; which was banned in the United States in 1978 for use in homes; so the child may ingest old lead paint chips or lead contaminate dust from their hands; so on a daily basis resulting in gastrointestinal absorption of lead. This is by far one of the most common causes for elevate blood lead level that I see in my clinic.
On the other hand, I have evaluated adults in our clinic who had elevate blood lead levels; so after inhaling lead vapor following heating of lead in poorly ventilated areas. A couple of those cases include a hobbyist who made his own lead musket balls in his basement for Revolutionary War; also Civil War reenactments and a military marksmen who was practicing target shooting with lead ammo.
One of my patients who was pregnant was using a heat gun; so to strip lead paint in an old home and developed markedly elevated blood lead levels via inhalation; so placing her fetus at risk since lead crosses the placenta. The clinical effects from lead toxicity are potentially subtle; also may be slow to emerge and may not be noticed initially. The timing of symptoms is based on the dose take; so into the body and the time over which lead enters the body.
State health departments
Rather than being eliminated, much of the lead we absorb into our bodies becomes deposit in bones and stays with us for the rest of our lives. From those tissues and the blood, lead will eventually enter the bone where it is deposited and remains for the lifetime of most individuals. That is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has clearly stated that no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.
Entities, such as the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and local state health departments work to decrease adult and child lead exposure. Public health initiatives over the past few decades in the U.S. have been successful in lowering our public’s blood lead levels.
Such public health preventative work to decrease lead exposure will reduce future adverse health outcomes in subsequent generations. If you have questions about lead, view information at reliable sites, such your state health department, the CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.