With the recent media coverage about numerous lead tainted toys and other products, it would serve you well to get acquainted with some of the most common symptoms of lead poisoning, so you can put a stop to the damage as soon as possible.
Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning include:
Fatigue, lethargy, or sometimes hyperactivity
Bluish line along the gums (Burton’s line). This is less common in children.
Metallic taste in your mouth
Nausea, abdominal pain
Reduced cognitive abilities
Although many of these symptoms could be indicative of a number of health problems, don‘t hesitate to see your doctor if you have a number of these symptoms and think you may have been exposed to unsafe levels of lead.
Lead is a very dangerous substance, and exposure should be minimized as much as possible. Unfortunately, lead poisoning is estimated to affect about 1 million children in the U.S.
Although lead levels have dropped since 1978 -- when the substance was banned for use in house paint, on products marketed to children, and in dishes and cookware -- children can still develop lead poisoning after exposure to paint chips in older homes, drinking water from old plumbing that has been soldered with lead, or from imported toys.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lead may still be used in two aspects of toy manufacturing.
Paint: Lead is still widely used in other countries and can therefore still be found on imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban.
Plastic: The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. It softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms a dust.
I recommend that, if you have children, you pay close attention to any toy recalls due to lead contamination, because children are notorious for putting things into their mouths, virtually guaranteeing some lead absorption into their small bodies.
Even low levels of lead are harmful, and are associated with:
- Decreased intelligence
- Impaired neurobehavioral development
- Decreased stature and growth
- Impaired hearing acuity
There is also plenty of evidence that lead may have some causal effect in relation to ADHD. One author of a previous study states:
Similar to the effects observed in children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), experimental animals exposed to lead (Pb) exhibit behaviors attributed to "impulsivity" and 'inability to inhibit inappropriate responding.'" (Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1998 Jun;60(2):545-52)
Another study examined the lead concentrations in children's hair samples and compared them the attention-deficit behaviors. The authors state:
The striking dose-response relationship between levels of lead and negative teacher ratings remained significant... An even stronger relationship existed between physician-diagnosed attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and hair lead... There was no apparent 'safe' threshold for lead. Scalp hair should be considered a useful clinical and epidemiologic approach for the measurement of chronic low-level lead exposure in children. (Arch Environ Health 1996 May-Jun;51(3):214-20).
Making the possibility of lead poisoning even worse are the studies showing that fluoridated water supplies can increase children's absorption of lead, and, when lead is introduced into your body in sufficient quantities, it displaces zinc, which disrupts brain cell growth.
A chelating process called DMSA can help extract not only lead, but also mercury, cadmium, arsenic, antimony, and may other heavy metalsfrom your body. Heavy metals suppress the effect of a number of enzymes, some of which can be easily tested to see if you may be suffering from an excess of these heavy metals. For more in-depth information about this process, I recommend reading the Mercury Detox Autism Protocol.
But whether you suffer from any of these lead poisoning symptoms or not, you can give your body the best chance to fight the ravages of heavy metals, such as lead, if you maintain a healthy diet based on your biochemical makeup, and exercise regularly.