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Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning occurs when there is increased level of lead inside the body. Lead is toxic and can lead to many health problems such as headache, anemia, abdominal pain and irritability. Over time, lead poisoning can result in kidney failure, hypertension, learning difficulties, lethargy and behavioral problems. Children are at risk for lead poisoning when they are in contact with products containing lead. X-rays, blood count and CT or MRI of brain can help in identifying lead poisoning.


Lead poisoning in adults has often been traced to the use of lead based glazes on potteries and contamination of herbal medicines. Sometimes lead pipes in older homes can leach lead into water. It is safe to let the water run for a few seconds before using the water for consumption. The more time water has been sitting in the pipes, the more lead it may contain. Again hot water may contain more lead than cold water. In adults, symptoms of lead poisoning are seen when the lead level in the blood exceeds 80 µg/dL for weeks.

Lead exposure is measured in micrograms per deciliter of blood (µg/dL). The following is a guide to the standards on lead exposure set by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • 0 µg/dL : Even at birth, all people have some lead in their blood. However no level of exposure is deemed safe for children.

  • 1.0 — 1.3 µg/dL : Average blood lead level among children ages 1-5 in the US

  • 3.5 µg/dL : The CDC is considering using this level as a new "reference value" to identify children under age six with elevated blood lead levels. The threshold is lowered periodically to reflect new data from a national health and nutritional survey.

  • 5 µg/dL : The CDC's current reference level for an elevated childhood blood level that warrants public health action, close monitoring or case management. Some 500,000 U.S. children are at or above this level, which some states define as lead poisoning.

  • 10 µg/dL : Children who reach this threshold require closer attention and action to limit further lead exposure. Many states conduct inspections of the poisoned child's living environment to identify exposure sources. Research shows that a blood lead level of 10 µg/dL can lower IQ by 4 to 6 points on average.

  • 45 µg/dL : Poisoning that may require hospitalization and chelation drug treatment, which helps the body to excrete lead. The drugs aren't considered effective for children with lower blood lead levels.

  • >70 µg/dL: Left unchecked, acute lead poisoning can cause seizures, coma and death.


High levels of lead in the blood may require Chelation Therapy (treatment with chemical agents that bind to the heavy metal lead which can be excreted through urine). There are 4 agents :
Edetate Calcium Disodium (EDTA calcium) and Dimercaprol (BAL) are given through injections
Succimer (Chemet) and Penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen) are taken orally.

Mercury poisoning

Mercury poisoning or hydrargyria occurs when the body is exposed to mercury or its compounds. Symptoms that are indicative of mercury poisoning are lack of coordination and visual/speech difficulties. There might be skin shedding, pigmentation and peripheral neuropathy. The intensity of the symptoms varies based on the exposure. Some persons exposed to mercury might notice difficulty in breathing, bad cough and metallic taste. There might be lung damage and brain damage, based on intensity of mercury inhalation. Once mercury exposure is identified, removal of the source is critical. The clothes, skin and eyes must be cleaned. Chelation therapy might be done on a person who has considerable mercury load in the body.


Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide or CO is extremely toxic and can be very dangerous to people when inhaled. Even a small amount can be dangerous leading to neurological damage or hypoxic injury. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are vertigo, headache, confusion and lightheadedness. Further exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to death. This is because carbon monoxide hampers the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Other problems of carbon monoxide poisoning are hyperventilation, irregular heart beat, seizure, loss of memory and difficulty in breathing. Treating carbon monoxide poisoning with oxygen allows removal of the toxic gas from the blood.

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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: December 9, 2019