Lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body.

Called the silent epidemic because it often occurs without obvious symptoms, it frequently goes undiagnosed. Children under six are most at risk because they are more apt to be exposed to lead through hand-to-mouth activity than older children. They are also biologically more sensitive to lead. These years are a critical time in brain and organ development. The body readily takes up lead - mistaking it for calcium - which rapidly growing bodies need in abundance. This can cause lifelong disability.

While the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated when a child's blood-lead level is greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter (μg/dL), there is increasing evidence that there is truly no safe level of lead for young children. The negative effects of even small amounts of lead exposure in those critical early years reverberate through an entire lifetime. Research shows a correlation between elevated blood-lead levels and lowered IQ, behavior, and learning problems. And the decline in IQ attributable to lead takes the greatest toll on IQ early on; a one-point increase in lead levels below 10 μg/dL (for example, from five to six μg/dL) has a more negative effect than a one-point increase does at higher lead levels (e.g. from 28 to 29 μg/dL).

Childhood lead exposure is also responsible for increased drug abuse and crime, and health problems in adulthood - from dental decay and osteoporosis - to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Recent studies even suggest that some of the mental decline associated with aging, losses in verbal and visual memory and language ability, may relate to lead exposure earlier in life.

Click for information on lead-poisoning programs by state At very high levels, lead poisoning causes seizures, coma, and even death. The human cost of lead poisoning is devastating to lead-poisoned children and their families. But the societal cost is also staggering to us all. Consider this: the CDC estimates that there are 6.8 million children with asthma versus 310,000 cases of children with elevated blood-lead levels. However, the total economic costs for asthma pale in comparison - $2 billion compared to $43 billion for lead. > Continue

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HOW ARE CHILDREN EXPOSED TO LEAD?

Lead sources may include: paint chips, dust, & soil in or around older (pre-1978) buildings older painted objects leaded glass, crystal, pewter, & ceramic dishes (more likely in painted china & in pottery from Latin America, the Middle East, & India) herbal/traditional remedies & cosmetics from other countries candy from Mexico toys & trinkets
Doctors and Public Health, click here to learn how the LeadCare II system can help you meet your state's blood-lead screening requirements.