Lead poisoning, also called Plumbism or painter’s colic, is a condition caused by an increased level of heavy metal lead in the body. The heavy metal, lead, is a very strong poison. When an individual swallows a lead object or breathes in lead dust, some of the poison can stay in the body and cause serious health problems.
When can you say that a child has been poisoned with lead?
Lead poisoning is usually said to be present when the child has two successive blood lead levels greater than 10 ug/dl.
Where can lead be found?
Lead can be found on various places and in different things especially on old houses. Most commonly lead can be found in the following places:
- House paints before 1978. Small children often swallow paint chips or dust from lead-based paint that results to plumbism.
- Storage batteries
- Pewter pitcher and dinnerware
- Soil contaminated by decades of car exhaust or years of house paint scrapings. Lead is more common in soil near highways and houses.
- Old toys and furniture that are painted before 1976
- Painted toys and decorations with unknown place of production.
- Lead bullets, fishing sinkers and curtain weights
- Plumbing pipes and faucets. Nowadays new building code required a lead-free solder. However, lead is still found in some modern faucets that may result to the presence of lead in drinking water in homes.
Methods of Screening
- Serum ferritin. This is the most widely used screening method in determining blood lead levels. However, this test requires the use of atomic absorption spectrophotometry, which is a costly procedure.
- Erythrocyte protoporphyrin test. This is a free and simple screening method that only involves a fingerstick. Protoporphyrin is elevated in children with lead poisoning as lead blocks protoporphyrin from entering the heme portion of the blood component.
- Radiograph. A radiograph of the abdomen may reveal paint chips in the intestinal tract.
Management and Prevention of lead poisoning
- Remove the child from the environemtn containing lead or removal of the source of lead from the child’s environment.
- The walls must be covered with a paneling or Masonite.
- For children with lead level greater than 20 ug/dl, an oral chelating agent such as Succimer may be prescribed.
- Keep the home dust-free as possible.
- Have everyone wash their hands before eating.
- Water should be tested for lead. When tested positive, containing high levels of lead, consider installing an effective filtering device or switch to bottled water for drinking and cooking
- Avoid canned goods from foreign countries.
- Throw out old painted toys if you do not know whether the paint contains lead.
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