Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal, and usually presents in very small amount in the environment. Lead and its compounds may be found in products such as batteries, lead-based paints, lead-containing ceramics, lead solder and leaded petrol. In everyday life, lead is found everywhere and exposure seems inevitable. Notwithstanding this, it is always good for health to achieve the lowest possible lead level in the body.
Health effects of lead
Lead can enter the human body by ingestion, inhalation and skin absorption. When lead is absorbed into the body in excessive amount, it is toxic to many organs and systems. For acute effect, accidentally exposure for high dose of lead may cause abdominal pain and vomiting. For chronic effects, depending on the lead level inside the body, significant exposure to lead is associated with a wide range of effects, including neurodevelopmental effects, anaemia, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal symptoms, impaired renal function, neurological impairment, impaired fertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Infants, young children, pregnant women and lactating women are more likely to be affected by its adverse effects.
How can one reduce the risks of exposure to lead?
Management of a raised blood lead level
The most important management is to identify and remove the source of exposure. When exposure stops, lead in the body will be gradually reduced through excretion in urine and bile. It is important to have a balanced diet with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and iron, as good nutrition lowers the amount of swallowed lead that is absorbed into the bloodstream. Patients who are symptomatic with high blood lead levels (i.e. more than 44 micrograms/dL in the more easily affected group and more than 50 micrograms/dL for adults) should be evaluated for further management, including chelation therapy.
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