Lead Poisoning in Adults: Signs, Symptoms & Effects of Lead Poisoning

Those who suffer the daily agony of waiting for public transport buses must be pretty aware of the offensively malodorous smoke emitted by those cavalcades of vehicles passing by. What they aren’t aware of is that it is not just the fetid smoke they are taking in, but a perplexed composition of poisonous gases and heavy metals too!

Lead Poisoning In Adults

Lead is one of those heavy metals which are present in vehicle emission, lead dust or fumes etc. Lead contamination may also occur through contaminated hands, food, water, cigarettes or clothing and often leads to lead poisoning which is a pernicious, slow accumulation of lead in one’s body often with no immediate signs or symptoms.

It occurs when the lead entering the respiratory and digestive systems is carried through blood to various tissues and bones where it may get deposited and harm the normal physiology of respective organs! It has been reported that more than 90% of the total body burden of lead is accumulated in the bones, where it is either stored or re-released into the blood, re-exposing organ systems long after the original exposure.

The cytotoxicity of lead is well documented. Lead is known to affect various organs and their functions to varying degrees. The frequency and severity of symptoms among exposed individuals depend upon the amount of exposure. Neurological effects of lead poisoning may include peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, irritability, impaired concentration, hearing loss, seizures or encephalopathy etc. Lead poisoning may also lead to minor gastrointestinal effects like nausea, dyspepsia, constipation or a lead line on gingival tissue. Some recent research also indicates effects of lead on reproductive system. It has been reported to increase the number of miscarriages or stillbirths, reducing the sperm count and/or producing abnormal sperms in terms of motility or viability. Lead poisoning may also lead to chronic nephropathy with proximal tubular damage along with hypertension. There are reports that indicate a potential elevation in erythrocyte protoporphyrin & heme synthesis in cases of chronic lead poisoning. Some cases, anemia, joint pain, and pain in a muscle or group of muscles have also been associated with lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning can be diagnosed by a blood lead quantization test. Levels from 1 to 20μg/dl indicate that lead is building up in the body while 20-30μg/dl indicates potential physiologic problems due to regular exposure to lead. At lead levels between 30-50μg/dl, health damage may be occurring, even if the effects are asymptomatic while at levels above 80μg/dl, serious permanent health damage may have already occurred.

Lead Testing Kits

As soon as lead poisoning is diagnosed, the exposure to potential sources of lead should be immediately discontinued. Depending upon the blood lead levels, severity of clinical symptoms, biochemical and hematological indications, and the nature and history of exposure, further course of treatment is adjudicated. In most cases, however, when the blood lead levels rise to around 80μg/dl, chelation therapy is considered, particularly in the presence of supporting signs and symptoms. Depending upon the actual blood lead levels, repetitive courses of chelation therapy may be required, however, it must be kept in mind that therapeutic chelating agents have potentially adverse side effects and should be used cautiously and on an individual basis. Nevertheless, the best obvious thing to do is – Recognize potential sources of lead and stay away from them!

12 comments to Lead Poisoning in Adults: Signs, Symptoms & Effects of Lead Poisoning

  • John Thiessen

    Hey there,
    23 years ago I worked in a metal casting foundry and after approximately 1 1/2 years I was diagnosed with Lead Poisoning. My lead level was 210 μg/dl. I was one of seven people hospitalized for one month and I received 4 – 1 week courses of chelation therapy. In the newspapers we were known as THE UNLUCKY SEVEN. At that time I was very sick…after the chelation therapy, I did feel better and was released from the hospital and told that I was good to go.

    Is there anyone out there that I could talk to about the Long Term Effects of Lead poisoning? I would very much appreciate some correspondance on this subject.
    Please help…

  • damien

    Hi John my husband Damien has been told he has lead poisioning from the place where he works and he has the blue gum line and quite a lot of pain in legs hips etc the doctors that we have been dealing with do not know much about lead poisioning and i am hoping that maybe you could help by telling us some more about what you have been through as damien has some memory loss and even tho his lead count came down it has gone back up i would be gratefull to hear back from you thanks Dale

  • kelly

    Hi, I myself got quite severe lead poisoning 2 years ago and was wondering the same as damien as to the long term effects of lead poisoning. If anybody can be of help, i would be very keen to hear from you. Thanks.

  • Zolar

    I had lead poisoning about 20 years ago.
    Here’s my long term problems:

    Schizophrenia, paranoia, transient memory loss, lethargy, inability to attain restful sleep, erectile dysfunction, and I may have just had a small ruptured aneurysm (still waiting to hear from the doctor).

    My count was 92 micrograms per 100ml of blood. And that’s after walking around with lead in me for 6 weeks before treatment.
    Federal Limit of exposure for an adult back then was 40mcg/100ml.

    I had the chelation as well for 8 days. Calcium EDTA to be exact. Be sure that the hospital pharmacist dispenses what the AMA book says and NOT what they THINK you should have. The book calls for a much higher dosage than what the pharmacist feels. My doctor at the time argued with the pharmacist about it and the doctor won out.

    If you were lucky and had low levels or short term exposure with rapid treatment, you can avoid some of my problems.

    Just stay away from all lead as much as possible, especially anything made from Pewter, unless you can verify there is no lead in it.

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  • Gabrielle

    I had severe lead poisoning (from paint) when I was a child and was chelated for one month each on separate occassions over five years.

    Since turning fifty I have been diagnosed with a very symptomatic long term mineral deficiency and subsequent severe asthma, fibromyalgia and immune problems.

    In trying to understand these health issues the only thing I could pin such things to was the lead poisoning when a child.

    My analysis on the issue is that the osmotic transfer of minerals from food intake was damaged in the chelation therapy and that this has le(a)d to the other health issues.

    I’ve been to the research and there are no studies that I can find on long term effects of lead poisoning and/or chelation therapy.

    Does anyone else have a clue on the long term effects of chelation?
    Gabrielle

  • pradeep

    I suffered from lead poisoning 2 years back with lead level in blood above 70. now it is 13.92. i was treated with chelation therapy (Cilamin 250 mg capsules).Now i am suffering from back pain, may be due to leaching of calcium.My sperm mortality has reduced to 5% only.Does any one suggest about sperm quality.

  • Ahern

    I have been feeling very lethargic, some asthma symptoms,loss of appetite and taste, and am just wondering if these are symptoms of lead poisoning. I am a painter, but haven’t been tested yet.
    On a secondary note, I think it is so hypocritical of the powers that be to inact all these lead laws NOW, when they’ve known about the adverse reactions for 50 yrs. I think the state and anyone else involved should get sued by anyone who has been exposed…. They knew all along, but never enforced any regulations.

  • Gyanender

    I have been associated in business with one of a Lead-Acid charged battery company since March’11. The depot and service center of the company are at same place adjacent to each other.
    Now, I willing to know that weather the emissions of the service station while lead acid batteries are charged for service and repair will effect our human body? If so, kindly suggest how can I get rid of emissions to get protect our human force working at our work place?
    We, usually feel suffocation while breathing at our work place when there are many number of batteries are being placed for charging, even though we have a power system of exhaust to air.
    Is there a chance that in long run we will be suffering from lead poisoning?
    Kindly suggest the remedies and prescribe any good medicine which can protect our body.

  • Casey

    Are there any real answers to this topic? I came down with an elevated lead level in November. The company I worked for was TOTALLY ignorant to the fact and said I did not get it at work and “LAYED ME OFF” Here it is 8 months later I still feel lousy and can go back to work with a new company knowing how I feel. any suggestions? Unemployment is about to run out and could loose my house if something don’t happen SOON… HELP PLEASE

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