If you suspect that you or somebody in your family – a child, perhaps – has been exposed to lead, you may be wondering what to do now. What are the symptoms? Are there tests you can do yourself? What tests can your doctor or pediatrician run for you? What is the treatment for lead exposure? Are there any long-term health effects? The Serpe firm has complied this helpful summary of facts for anybody who is worried about lead exposure.
What are the symptoms of lead exposure?
Lead poisoning can affect many parts of the body, but the most pronounced effects are on the central nervous system and kidneys. Lead enters the body through the inhalation or ingestion of lead dust or particles, and from there it travels into the bloodstream and organs. Eventually it is deposited in the bones and teeth, where it can remain for decades.
- Stomachaches, cramping, constipation, or diarrhea
- Nausea, vomiting
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
- Muscle weakness
- Higher rates of tooth decay
WebMD also lists the following symptoms, however it can be difficult to determine if these symptoms are caused by lead exposure as they are common to other types of illness:
- Behavioral symptoms in children: Irritability or aggressiveness, hyperactivity, being easily distracted, impulsiveness, learning problems, lack of interest in play, loss of appetite.
- Behavioral symptoms in adults: Irritability, unexplained changes in mood or personality, changes in sleep patterns, inability to concentrate, memory loss.
- Neurological symptoms: Poor coordination, weakness in hands and feet, headaches, seizures, paralysis, coma.
Help! I think I’ve been exposed to lead!
We’re all afraid about lead exposure – after all, it’s all over the news. Most of us know about the lead in homes built before 1978, the dangers of lead that used to be in gasoline, and of course we’ve also been stunned by the numerous toy recalls by Mattel, one of the largest toy manufacturers. You may be worried that you or one of your family members have been exposed to lead – particularly if you have a child in your home who may have been playing with lead-tainted toys.
Childhood lead poisoning is still a problem in the United States. The CPSC estimates that 1.7 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 have levels of lead in their blood that are of concern. Children should be screened routinely for lead poisoning as part of a well-baby visit before the age of 2. When you visit the pediatrician for your child’s well-visit exam, the pediatrician will probably make you fill out a form asking questions which can be used to gauge your child’s potential for lead contamination. Questions ask about the age of your home and any ongoing renovation work (that might stir up lead dust in an older home), hobbies that you or another caretaker may have which involves the use of lead (i.e. stained glass work), and more. You may also request that your child be tested, regardless of the results of the questionnaire.
Infants and children are usually tested by a quick finger-stick to collect blood, while a blood draw from a vein is necessary for adults. This will test for lead levels in the blood only, not other internal organs or bones. Additional tests that can be performed include x-rays to look for the presence of lead in your organs and bones, and kidney and urine tests to evaluate renal function.
Considering a home test for lead? Don’t. The most common home test kits, LeadCheck Swabs, have been shown to be inaccurate 64% of the time (you can read our article about these swabs here). The only reliable kind of lead testing is done at certified laboratories (for consumer goods) or through in-home testing by certified lead test companies. You can search for a lead-test company or lead-risk assessor in your area here. The Community Environmental Health Resource Center (CEHRC) provides a great “Lead Test Decision Guide” on their website.
What is the treatment for lead exposure?
If you or somebody you love has been exposed to lead, the first step in a treatment program is to remove the source of contamination. The next step is to ensure that the person suffering from lead poisoning is eating a nutritious diet, as a well-fed body will absorb less lead than a nutritionally deficient body. If levels of lead in the body are very high, chelation therapy may be tried – but it is very important that the source of lead be removed from the patient’s environment first. Unfortunately, it does not appear possible to reverse the effects of lead exposure by using chelation therapy. This is all the more reason to prevent exposure to lead in the first place – a job we expect our government agencies and manufacturers to take seriously.
Are there any long-term health effects from lead exposure?
The Serpe Firm has reviewed key medical literature to determine if the damage from lead poisoning is permanent, and sadly it appears that it is. Please see the article on our website titled “Is Brain Damage from Lead Permanent?”
Finally, consider keeping track of recalls involving products containing excessive amounts of lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) “is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” Their website contains information about recalled products, and is the most comprehensive source of recall information. You can also search the CPSC website by type of hazard – go to their website here and search by “lead”. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains a list of all products recalled for lead contamination. You can look for toys, cosmetics, office products, and more that have tested positive for excessive levels of lead.
If you or somebody you love has been affected by lead exposure, please contact the law office of Richard Serpe, PC immediately. Richard Serpe has the experience you need for your lead poisoning case, and will help make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.