Lead Poisoning Isn’t Just Child’s Play – Adults Impacted Too
Most of the focus of the effects of lead poisoning has been directed towards children, and rightfully so. Children absorb a higher percentage of the lead they ingest into their system about 30-50% compared to 10% for adults. Additionally, the rapidly developing brains of children under six years of age are far more susceptible to lead. Finally, playtime on the ground and mouthing behaviors put them in harms way in regards to lead exposure. All combined, the immediate effects of lead poisoning on children are far greater than the immediate effects on adults.
However, low-level lead accumulation over a lifetime is something that is not often discussed but presents a risk. While the half-life of lead in the blood of adults is about one month, the lead that is retained in spongy bone has a half-life in the bone of about 90 days and the lead retained in compact bone has a half-life from 10 to 30 years. Therefore, someone does not need to be lead poisoned by a single point of exposure in their life. Someone can experience the negative effects of lead and even become lead poisoned simply by repeated exposure, accumulating lead in their bones over their life.
While lead that has been built up in bones is continually moved out of the body, that mobilization of lead from bone into the blood system increases “during periods of pregnancy, lactation, menopause, physiologic stress, chronic disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, fractures, and advanced age, and is exacerbated by calcium deficiency,” according to a Medscape article titled “Pathophysiology and Etiology of Lead Toxicity.” Osteoporosis is also a situation that can lead to dangerous exposure to lead that has been accumulated in the body. As a result, it is possible to become lead poisoned even years after exposure to a source of lead.
The effects of low-level lead accumulation on adults vary from person to person, but there is evidence of low-level lead accumulation leading to the following health problems later in life: elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular mortality, worsened cognitive performance, depression, anxiety, hearing loss, Parkinson’s disease, eye cataracts, tooth loss, and hyperuricemia (which leads to gout and, in extreme cases, kidney failure).Also of interest is the effect that lead poisoning has on pregnant mothers and their children. There is evidence that for a mother who is lead poisoned during pregnancy, their child is two to three times more likely to develop schizophrenia. Lead that has been accumulated in the mother’s bones over time can lead to her poisoning from increased mobilization of lead stored in bones. Of course, this list is not comprehensive, so there may be other serious health issues that