Magazine article Public Management

Lead Poisoning Still Leads in Environmental Risk Issues

Magazine article Public Management

Lead Poisoning Still Leads in Environmental Risk Issues

Article excerpt

Lead poisoning is a preventable disease caused by the ingestion (swallowing or inhaling) of lead. Even small amounts of lead paint chips or dust particles can be harmful to the body. Lead poisoning can affect people of any age, race, geographic region, spoken language, or socioeconomic level. Despite enormous progress in reducing some commonly used lead components (e.g. in gasoline and household paint) in recent years, many American children still suffer disproportionately from lead poisoning. Indeed, about one million children in America have high levels of lead in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sources of lead exposure include dust from lead-glazed pottery, hobbies (fishing sinkers, shooting ranges, etc.), cultural/traditional tools, and some home remedies. Many factors such as living in older housing stock, language barriers, and lack of information or awareness are reasons why lead poisoning is still prevalent.

Young children from six months to six years old and pregnant women (and their unborn fetuses) face the greatest risks from the exposure to lead. During the growth period to six years of age, children are most likely to put things in their mouths that may contain lead. Poor children, urban youngsters, and those living in older housing with deteriorating lead-based paint are at the highest risk. Some of the physical and mental disorders that have resulted from lead poisoning in children include learning disabilities, impaired hearing, and mental retardation. In fact, many cases treated as attention deficit disorder (ADD) in school-age children have been misdiagnosed; and with further blood testing, ADD symptoms have proven to be hyperactive effects of blood lead poisoning.

Many sociologists have also noted a correlation between lead poisoning prevention and criminal behavior. The connection lies in the perception that the children's unstable behavior is a discipline problem instead of a symptom of a possibly preventable health concern--namely lead poisoning. More specifically, many lead-poisoned children, if not tested, are classified as having learning disabilities or behavior deficiencies and are oftentimes put onto a special educational track. Putting such children in special education classes may lead to a decrease in their self-esteem and learning capacity; for some, social interaction among peers and authority figures can be severely hampered. The stifling of a lead poisoned child's self-confidence can then contribute to an inability to achieve scholastically, successfully complete school, and/or find employment with a livable wage. Thus, misclassifying a lead poisoned child could eventually result in the child's or young adult's turning to other means, possibly illegal, to sustain a basic quality of life.

In adults, lead poisoning results in loss of memory, nervous disorders, hearing problems, and other blood-related illnesses such as hypertension and anemia. …

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