Health Effects Of Lead Poisoning On Children

“Lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children. At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death.

Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disorders. At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems.

In particular lead can affect children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural changes such as reduced attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment.

Lead exposure also causes anaemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioural effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.

There is no known ‘safe’ blood lead concentration; even blood lead concentrations as low as 5 µg/dL, may be associated with decreased intelligence in children, behavioural difficulties and learning problems. As lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increases.

Encouragingly, the successful phasing out of leaded gasoline in most countries, together with other lead control measures, has resulted in a significant decline in population-level blood lead concentrations. There is now only one country that continues to use leaded fuel. More, however, needs to be done regarding the phasing out of lead paint: so far only 37% of countries have introduced legally binding controls on lead paint.” — World Health Organisation

UN Environment Programme
World Health Organization (WHO)
IPEN: for a toxics-free future

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