Dangers of Lead Exposure To Children and Adults

Is Being Exposed to Lead Dangerous?

Lead is a poisonous metal that causes serious health risks. Before getting into the dangers of exposure, it is important to discuss the cause of exposure in the first place.

Causes of Lead Exposure

Lead poisoning is caused by inhalation or ingestion of lead or lead dust from multiple sources, the most common being; storage batteries, house paint (in houses built/painted before 1978), toys made & painted outside the U.S., bullets, fishing sinkers, pipes, sink faucets, soil polluted by chipping house paint, artwork/supplies, paint sets, pottery, jewelry, gasoline products (sold outside the U.S. & Canada), lead figures and traditional ethnic medicines.

Lead exposure occurs over months or years, resulting in serious physical and mental health problems. While lead is dangerous to everyone, young children tend to be the most vulnerable with symptoms such as behavioral problems, low IQ, hearing problems, stunted growth, and short-term & long-term learning difficulties. Children get exposed to lead mostly when they ingest lead-containing objects. Lead is highly toxic to children since the nervous system and brain is still developing.

Dangers of Lead Exposure

The health effects of ingesting or inhaling lead are the same. However, the body absorbs lead more through inhalation. When exposed to lead, the body stores it temporarily in the blood, tissues, and bones before continually exposing other areas.

With age, the bones demineralize. Internal exposure may increase as lead is released from the bones. Studies show that lead mobilizes from the bones during menopause, showing why post-menopausal women tend to have more lead in their blood than premenopausal women.
The dangers of lead exposure can be categorized based on the length of exposure.

What Research Shows

Researchers in Baltimore studied children who were diagnosed as lead poisoned between 1931 and 1951 And were astounded to find that out of 283 children studied, almost one third died as a result of their lead exposure.
Since many of these children grew up in housing that was managed by the Housing and Urban Development Agency HUD was encouraged to institute guidelines that have become “state-of-the-art” for workplace guidance for regulators across the US. Since much of the exposure to lead comes from lead-based paint it is imperative that workers are aware of the dangers and good work practices as specified by the Hazard Communication Standard. For more information

Dangers of Short-term Lead Exposure

Lead exposure over a short period can cause symptoms such as constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, tiredness, irritability, poor appetite, memory loss, and tingly hands/feet. Since short term exposure to lead causes symptoms that are common with other health problems, exposure may be overlooked. Exposure to extremely high levels of lead over a short time can cause brain damage, kidney damage, anemia, weakness, and death.

Unborn children face developmental problems since lead can cross over to the baby via the placental barrier. Pregnant women exposed to lead (even in small levels) risk having babies with behavioral and intelligence-related problems. Lead exposure is also known to cause infertility, stillbirths, and miscarriages.

While lead affects infants more than adults, children exhibit signs of severe lead exposure at a lower level. Lead exposure can occur in children in interesting ways. For instance, parents have exposed their children to lead in the past by accidentally bringing lead dust at home. In fact, intellectual disabilities and neurological effects are common among children of parents who work/have worked in jobs prone to lead exposure.

Dangers of Long-term Lead Exposure

Persons who have been exposed to lead over a long time tend to exhibit health effects such as constipation, abdominal pain, depression, forgetfulness, irritability, absentmindedness, and nausea. Prolonged exposure can also increase the risk of suffering from severe health problems such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease, and infertility. There’s also a link between cancer and lead exposure.

Lead Exposure in Severe Cases

High doses of lead can cause health emergency symptoms that require immediate care. These symptoms include but aren’t limited to vomiting, seizures, muscle weakness, severe abdominal pain, coma, and encephalopathy (manifested as confusion, coma and/or seizures).


From the above lead exposure information, the importance of lead awareness can’t be overlooked. Since lead is still present in many items today, ranging from household paint to artwork, piping, etc., homeowners shouldn’t handle items suspected to contain lead without undergoing lead awareness training. In fact, OSHA and EPA have strict guidelines for individuals working in industries such as construction that are bound to come into contact with lead.

If you must repaint your home or do other remodeling work and you suspect lead in the paint or other areas, consider lead awareness training first. Luckily, it is possible to get OSHA-approved lead awareness training online today from reputable institutions like Haztrainer and learn how to remove lead and asbestos safely. Asbestos awareness training & lead hazard communication is easy, convenient, and affordable for anyone with Haztrainer.

The training is mandatory for contractors, housekeepers, real estate professionals, and other workers/individuals who work/clean in environments that are likely to contain lead.