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Health Effects of Lead Poisoning

The number of New Jersey school districts admitting to high levels of lead in drinking water increases every day as more water quality tests are performed. Why is this an issue? Because the effects of lead poisoning in children can include serious injuries. A child can be exposed to lead in many ways, including drinking water containing lead that leached from pipes, solder or faucets, as well as exposure to flaking lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older homes. Whether exposure is caused by drinking, eating or breathing, once lead enters the body it can become a health hazard, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Lead Poisoning
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The possible effects of lead poisoning in children include:

  • Damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems (such as reduced IQ, ADHD, juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior)
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Seizures, unconsciousness and possibly death if exposure levels are very high.

The CDC considers a blood lead level of five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) or more requires medical attention. No safe level of lead exposure has been identified. The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (NTP) conducted research on the effects of low levels of lead exposure (from five to ten micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood) in children younger than 18. It stated in a 2012 report that there was “sufficient evidence” that the measured level of lead less than five micrograms is “associated with increased diagnosis” of the following:

  • Attention-related behavioral problems
  • Greater incidence of problem behaviors
  • Decreased cognitive performance (measured by lower academic achievement, decreased intelligence quotient (IQ) scores and “reductions in specific cognitive measures”).

The possible neuropsychological problems associated with lead exposure, according to the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore, include:

  • Delay in reaching language or motor milestones (in infants and toddlers)
  • Poor speech articulation
  • Poor understanding or usage of language
  • Problems keeping attention in school or at home
  • Unusually high activity level (hyperactivity)
  • Problems with learning and remembering new information
  • Rigid, inflexible problem-solving skills
  • Delayed intellectual abilities
  • Learning problems in school (with reading, language, math or writing)
  • Problems controlling behavior (being aggressive or impulsive)
  • Problems with fine or gross motor coordination.
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The NTP report also states there is “limited evidence” that lead in the blood at low levels is “associated with” delayed puberty and decreased kidney function in children 12 years of age and older. There is “sufficient evidence” that blood lead levels less than ten micrograms in children 12 and older are “associated with” delayed puberty and reduced growth. Lead poisoning may go unrecognized because the symptoms of lead poisoning in children may not be obvious or may be blamed on another cause. According to the Mayo Clinic, those symptoms can include:

  • Being irritable
  • Lost appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss.

Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults.

  • The first six years of life are critical because it’s the time when the child’s brain grows the fastest.
  • Connections within the brain and nervous system that control thought, learning, hearing, movement, behavior and emotions are formed during a child’s first three years.

If you believe your child is suffering from lead poisoning you should see your doctor.

  • Physicians normally use a blood test to determine if a child has a high level of lead in his or her system.
  • A small blood sample is taken from a finger prick or a vein.
  • Lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).
  • If there is a level of 5 mcg/dL or greater your child may have unsafe levels of lead in their blood and should have their blood tested periodically.
  • If the level is high (45 mcg/dL or higher) your child should be treated for lead poisoning.

In addition to treatment, in order to prevent lead poisoning from getting worse the source of the lead in the child’s environment should be eliminated. Medical treatments for more severe cases of lead exposure include chelation therapy where a medication is given and it binds with the lead in the child’s body, to be excreted in the urine. If you believe your child is showing symptoms of lead poisoning which you believe may be linked to lead in school drinking water, call the Law Offices of James C. DeZao at 1-855-432-2489 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about your child’s situation, how the law may apply in your case and your best options to protect your child’s and your family’s legal rights.

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