How does lead poisoning affect young children?

Lead is dangerous to anyone exposed to it, but lead poisoning can be especially traumatic for young children. Toys, paint and water can all contain dangerous amounts of lead that can poison little ones. Unborn babies and small children are at the greatest risk of lead poisoning. Every year, more than 300,000 kids are found to have unsafe levels of lead in their systems. 

Lead is absorbed in a wide variety of ways. It can be inhaled or swallowed and sometimes is even absorbed through mere touch. Once in a person’s body, their system distributes it throughout. No matter where it ends up, lead can be dangerous. Most lead winds up in the bones, though, interfering with the production of blood cells and the absorption of calcium.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:

  • damage to the brain and nervous system
    • Poor coordination, weakness in hands and feet, headaches, seizures, paralysis, coma
  • behavior and learning problems
    • Irritability or aggressiveness, hyperactivity, being easily distracted, impulsiveness, learning problems, lack of interest in play, loss of appetite.  
  • slowed growth or reduced stature
  • hearing problems
  • headaches

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