If you haven’t heard, Flint, Michigan is having a water crisis. Their water is contaminated with lead due to a switch the city made about 2 years ago to save money. This has led to some lead poisoning, so I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you all about lead poisoning.
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in your body over a period of time. Children under 6 are especially vulnerable because lead poisoning can have serious effects of their physical and mental development, and can even be fatal.
The most common sources of lead poisoning in children are from lead based paint and dust that is contaminated with lead in older buildings. Other sources are contaminated soil, air, and water. Lead in water is regulated under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, lead in other sources is regulated as well, you can read more on the EPA website.
In most states children are tested at one year of age for lead poisoning.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning can be hard to detect without a blood test because often times symptoms don’t show up until there are dangerous levels of lead in the blood stream.
The symptoms in children include:
- Learning difficulties
- Slow growth
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
- Developmental delay
The symptoms in adults are:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle and joint pains
- High blood pressure
- Changes in Mental function
- Memory loss
- Mood disorders
- Pain, tingling, or numbness in arms and legs
Lead poisoning can affect brain development, especially in young children whose brains are still developing. High levels of lead in the blood can also damage the kidneys and nervous system, cause seizures, unconsciousness, and even death.
How is lead poisoning treated?
The first step in treatment is to determine the source of the lead poisoning and remove it or fix it. If the source is lead-based paint, it is easier to cover it up than to remove it. You can contact your local health department to determine the best way to reduce lead levels in your house. For some with low levels of lead in their bloodstream, avoiding lead exposure may be enough to decrease the levels, though you will need tested again to make sure this is the case.
For those with very high lead levels there are a couple of treatments:
- Chelation therapy is when you take a medication that binds to the lead and helps your body get rid of it through your urine.
- EDTA therapy is for those with very high levels of lead, and is one to three different medications. Often times, though, the damage that is done at this point is irreversible.
How can I help with the Flint Water Crisis?
Now that you know what lead poisoning is and how dangerous it can be, you can imagine the problems that Flint is facing. Many of the families are now forced to buy bottled water to cook with and drink when they can’t afford it. Unfortunately the issue isn’t being solved like it should be and that is why the American Red Cross has stepped in to help, along with many celebrities. You can help too by donating your time if you live close enough, or by donating money. HelpforFlint.com has the different ways you can donate and help the families affected. Remember, in a crisis, anything helps!