Naughty Kids… exactly like the one on the left side of this column, they are the creatures who keep on buzzing from one place to another, creating ruckus wherever they go. Most of times, through their commotions, they tend to get little extra adventurous, reach places, and try out things which you may have never even thought of, and which may put them at risk of Lead poisoning!
Lead poisoning i.e. the presence of too much of lead in one’s body is one of the most common pediatric health problems today. It is often caused by the exposure to lead that may either be eaten or breathed, in the form of dust. The lead in the blood is carried to various tissues and bones where it may get deposited for years to come and thus may harm respective organs in a dose and time dependent manner! In the year 2000, the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children pointed out to this disconsolate problem – “Despite progress, lead poisoning remains one of the top childhood environmental health problems today. Without further action, over the coming decades large numbers of young children may be exposed to lead in amounts that could impair their ability to learn and to reach their full potential.”
Although lead poisoning can bechance to all age groups but children are at an increased risk as their rapidly growing bodies tend to absorb more lead than adult bodies and because they usually have unhygienic habits of touching and tasting any and every other thing, no matter how dirty it is!
Lead poisoning is not like one of those rushed up cases in which a nutty kid ingests harmful quantities of lead, gets sick, and cannon-balled to the hospital. Instead, lead poisoning is an insidious, month-by-month accumulation of lead in a child’s body. Lead poisoning has no obvious immediate signs and often most children do not report any abnormal symptoms. They might report stomach-aches, decreased appetite, sleeping problems or irritability but because these symptoms mimic other childhood problems, lead poisoning is frequently not tested for and goes undetected.
In the long run, lead poisoning has been reported to cause a number of serious health problems in children which may include learning disabilities, mental retardation, behavioral problems, lowered IQ, stunted growth and hearing impairment. There have also been some reports of convulsions, coma and death in extreme cases. Some epidemiological data claims that childhood lead poisoning can contribute to problems later in life, such as academic failure & juvenile delinquency although no molecular basis for such claims has been ciphered out so far. Children with chronic elevated levels of lead tend to have high blood pressure.
The one way to diagnose lead poisoning is by having a blood test. Blood is taken from a child’s finger or arm and lead quantization is done. A level of 10μg/dL or more is considered unsafe. Another way is a saliva lead test.
Just in case your kid tests positive for lead poisoning, you can opt for chelator treatment which is available in most of the public hospitals. In this treatment, lead specific metal chelators are administered either intravenously or intramuscularly or orally as they reach inside and pull out lead molecules through urine. In cases with higher lead levels, more than one round of treatment may be required. However, kids with extremely high blood lead levels may be placed on special diets and may be required to be monitored closely to lower the risk of lead associated complications.