How do you get lead poisoning?
Lead enters your body each time you inhale leaded fumes or dust, or swallow something that contains lead.
If you are exposed to small amounts of lead over time or one large dose, your body may take in more lead than it can clean out.
Lead poisoning is a disease that occurs when too much lead builds up in the body.
How does lead harm the body?
Too much lead can harm both children and adults. Many times there are no symptoms until the health problems are very serious. Usually people who are lead poisoned do not seem to be sick.
Lead poisoning can cause permanent, irreversible learning, behavioral and health problems in young children. Lead can cause high blood pressure and kidney damage in adults, and in severe cases lead to death.
When young children are exposed to lead, they are at risk for:
- Brain and nervous system damage
- Slowed growth and development
- Learning and behavior problem
- Hearing and speech problems
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
- No desire to eat food
- Damage to IQ
- Damage to Brain and Nervous System
- Damage to Kidneys
- Lack of energy
- Stomach cramps
Who is at risk?
- Children under six years of age spending time in homes built before 1978, with chipping or peeling paint, are at greatest risk.
- Adults who work with lead on the job are also at high risk. This can include painters, remodelers, or workers in smelters or battery plants.
- People remodeling their homes may also be at risk, if the paint in the home has lead in it. Family members can also become lead poisoned while the lead-based paint is being removed from the home, if the work is not done properly. Lead was allowed in household paint until 1978. The older your home is, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint. Paints containing up to 50 percent lead were used on the inside and outside of homes through the 1950s.
- A pregnant or nursing woman's exposure to lead can harm her unborn baby or child.
Harris County Public Health is committed to ensuring Harris County children are safe. Learn more.