Lead is a heavy metal that is extremely toxic. When a child comes in contact with items containing lead, the metal builds up in their system over time. Symptoms of lead poisoning can include irritability, excessive sweating, aggressive behavior, low appetite and energy, difficulty sleeping, headaches, loss of previous developmental skills in young children, anemia, and constipation. A blood test can determine the amount of lead exposure that a child has experienced.
Lead can be found in paint, solder used in plumbing, old toys or furniture, pottery, porcelain, leaded glass, and hobby materials. Babies and children may come into contact with peeling paint on cribs or walls, dust containing lead, contaminated bare soil, air, contaminated drinking water through lead pipes, ceramics painted with lead paint, and home remedies containing lead.
Lead poisoning can cause permanent damage to the brain. Lead-level testing is an important part of your child's post-adoption medical evaluation.
In milder cases, simply removing the child from the environment with lead contamination can help reduce the lead levels in their system over time. The amount of lead in a child’s body can also be reduced if the child's diet includes plenty of foods rich in iron, calcium and zinc. Examples of foods rich in iron include eggs, raisins, greens, beans, peas, and other legumes. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are recommended for their high calcium content. Lean red meat and oysters are examples of foods that contain zinc. For more severe cases, medication is available to help lower very high lead levels in children.
If caught early and treated, children with lead exposure typically have no long term effects. However, if lead exposure is prolonged or severe and untreated, permanent damage may occur.