Lead Toxicity in Children Essay

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Lead Toxicity in Children

Lead poisoning in children was first discovered in 1890 in Queensland, Australia. The lead source was not identified until 1904, when a researcher traced it to the paint used on railings and verandahs. The first discovery of lead poisoning in the United States (with a traceable source) was in 1914; the child had chewed the paint off of his crib. At this time they linked lead poisoning as a cause of convulsions in children. As research progressed and more children were found with high lead levels, symptoms caused by lead were expanded to include lead meningitis, acute encephalopathy, intellectual dullness, reduced consciousness, seizures, comas, and death (Chisholm, 1982).

Lead is a metal found virtually
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In the 1950’s and 1960’s, lead poisoning was found to be prevalent in the slums of the inner cities. These areas were referred to as the "lead belt" because these run down houses were havens for lead exposure. The flaking paint on walls, the chipping plaster ceilings, and the old furniture exposed these children to a real hazard. Pica was an important contributing factor and children, ages 1 to 3 were at the greatest risk. Siblings in these situations were often affected and recurrence was common because the lead paint was not removed. The prognosis for these children became worse with each recurrence (Chisholm, 1982).

This lead poisoning problem finally received the attention it deserved in 1971 when the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act was put into effect. This act provided Federal assistance to help communities carry out screening and treatment programs (Chisholm, 1982).

The improved screening and treatment of lead poisoning decreased the severity of symptoms usually seen. However, the level of lead in the blood does not establish what symptoms are seen, since lead in blood only establishes current exposure. Recently, studies have shown that a long exposure to low amounts of lead may have severe neurobehavioral effects that are not diagnosed until the child enters school (Singhal et. al., 1980).

In the most extreme cases of lead poisoning, which were seen due to lack of testing, children exhibited
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