Lead Poisoning

lead poisoning or plumbism (plŭm´bĬz´əm), intoxication of the system by organic compounds containing lead. These enter the body by respiration (of dust, fumes, or sprays) or by ingestion of food or other substances that contain lead. Lead poisoning, formerly a leading occupational hazard in industrialized countries, can be an acute episode but is usually a chronic, cumulative disease brought about by continuous exposure.

See also occupational disease.

Sources

Many of the traditional sources of lead in the United States have been minimized by a variety of federal laws, enacted from 1978 on, banning lead paint and glazes and leaded gasolines, and prohibiting the use of lead pipes in construction and the use of lead solder in food and soda cans. Workplace exposure has been regulated by laws requiring the use of respirators, dust suppressors, and proper ventilation, and lead waste disposal guidelines have been developed. Continuing sources of environmental lead include water that has passed through old lead pipes, paint in older buildings, lead improperly disposed of in public landfills, and industrial sources such as mining, smelting, and recycling processes necessary to produce lead for batteries and other products.

Young children are usually exposed by ingesting paint chips containing lead. This source is most prevalent in poor areas where old, peeling lead-containing paint and plaster in rundown housing is common. Inadequately nourished or emotionally deprived children who resort to chewing inedible things (a condition known as pica) are most susceptible.

Effects and Treatment

Acute lead poisoning can result in abdominal discomfort, nervous system damage, and encephalitis. Chronic exposure is characterized by a blue line on the gums and can lead to damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells. Even low levels can contribute to hypertension in older people or to "silent lead poisoning" in exposed children, which affects the developing brain and leads to visual-motor problems and lowered intelligence. Lower doses may be treated by altering the diet to counteract lead's effects and and cleaning the person's environment to reduce intake. Higher doses are treated with chelating agents, drugs that remove lead from the body. Symptoms recur upon subsequent exposure.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Getting the Lead Out: The Complete Resource on How to Prevent and Cope with Lead Poisoning
Irene Kessel; John T. O'Connor.
Plenum Trade, 1997
The Environment and Mental Health: A Guide for Clinicians
Ante Lundberg.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Lead" begins on p. 31
Developmental Behavioral Pharmacology
Norman A. Krasnegor; David B. Gray; Travis Thompson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.5, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Perinatal Heavy Metal Exposure"
Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots
Robert D. Bullard.
South End Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Getting the Lead out of the Community"
Generations at Risk: Reproductive Health and the Environment
Ted Schettler.
MIT Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Metals"
Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution
Gerald Markowitz; David Rosner.
University of California Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The House of Butterflies: Lead Poisoning among Workers and Consumers"
The Brain on Lead: Animal Models Are Helping Researchers Understand the Effects of Lead Exposure in Children. They Are Finding Direct Correlations between Lead Exposure and Cognitive Function
Winter, Metta.
Human Ecology, Vol. 29, No. 4, December 2001
Heavy Metal: It Doesn't Take Nearly as Much Lead as the CDC Thought to Lower a Child's IQ
Winter, Metta.
Human Ecology, Vol. 29, No. 4, December 2001
Lead Poisoning among Young Children in Russia: Concurrent Evaluation of Childhood Lead Exposure in Ekaterinburg, Krasnouralsk, and Volgograd. (Children's Health Articles)
Rubin, Carol H.; Esteban, Emilio; Reissman, Dori B.; Daley, W. Randolph; Noonan, Gary P.; Karpati, Adam; Gurvitch, Elena; Kuzmin, Sergio V.; Privalova, Larissa I.; Zukov, Alexander; Zlepko, Alexander.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 6, June 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Mapping for Prevention: GIS Models for Directing Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs. (Children's Health Articles)
Miranda, Marie Lynn; Dolinoy, Dana C.; Overstreet, M. Alicia.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 9, September 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Environmental Pollutants and Disease in American Children: Estimates of Morbidity, Mortality, and Costs for Lead Poisoning, Asthma, Cancer, and Developmental Disabilities. (Children's Health Articles)
Landrigan, Philip J.; Schechter, Clyde B.; Lipton, Jeffrey M.; Fahs, Marianne C.; Schwartz, Joel.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 7, July 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Assessment of Cleaning to Control Lead Dust in Homes of Children with Moderate Lead Poisoning: Treatment of Lead-Exposed Children Trial. (Children's Health)
Ettinger, Adrienne S.; Bornschein, Robert L.; Farfel, Mark; Campbell, Carla; Ragan, N. Beth; Rhoads, George G.; Brophy, Merrill; Wilkens, Sherry; Dockery, Douglas W.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 12, December 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Effects of Lead Exposure before Pregnancy and Dietary Calcium during Pregnancy on Fetal Development and Lead Accumulation
Han, Shenggao; Pfizenmaier, David H.; Garcia, Enid; Eguez, Maria L.; Ling, Matthew; Kemp, Francis W.; Bogden, John D.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 108, No. 6, June 2000
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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