No amount of lead is safe in one’s body.

Key facts

  • There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.
  • Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. [1]
  • Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood. [1]
  • Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing fetus. [1]
  • Lead exposure is preventable. [1]

Deaths from lead poisoning are now rare. But this does not mean lead is now safe. Lead can cause developmental delay, neurologic problems, kidney disease, and anemia. [2] it is not unusual for the blood of children to contain enough lead to cause intellectual and developmental delay, neurologic problems, kidney disease, and anemia. Children absorb 40-50% of the lead that gets into their mouths whilst adults only absorb ten percent. Even small amounts of lead can produce high lead concentrations in the blood of young children because their bodies are small. Since children’s brains are still developing, the effect of lead poisoning can be particularly damaging. [2]

No level of lead in the blood of children is currently believed safe. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 10 μg/dL as a level of concern before 2012. Since 2012 this has been adjusted to 5 μg/dL as an amount of lead that should prompt further medical investigation. Approximately 2.5% of American children have at least this much lead in their blood. [3]

[1] WHO Fact Sheet https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/lead-poisoning-and-health
[2] https://www.drgreene.com/qa-articles/lead-safe
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_lead_level

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