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How To Know If You Have Lead Poisoning: What can I do?

There is no level of lead in a person’s blood that is safe. Lead is a poison if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Lead poisoning is particularly damaging to children and, unfortunately, most prevalent among children.

Even low levels of lead in a child’s blood can delay puberty, lower IQ and cause hyperactivity as well as attention, behavior and learning problems, the New York State Department of Health says.

Children younger than 6 years old are more likely to get lead poisoning than any other age group. Most often, children get lead poisoning from breathing or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors and windowsills, hands and toys. Lead can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. New York requires every child to be tested for lead exposure at age 1 and again at 2 years of age.

The New York City lead poisoning lawyers at David Resnick & Associates, PC want you to understand lead poisoning, the effects of lead poisoning on the human body and what you should do if you suspect you or your child has been harmed by lead exposure.

What is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning refers to a buildup of lead in a person’s body, typically over several months or years. Lead that gets into the bloodstream through the lungs (inhaled), digestive tract (swallowed) or skin (absorbed) is stored in organs and tissue, bones and teeth.

Lead was used in many consumer products until its risks became known. As its toxicity became apparent in the last 40 years, lead was removed from many products, such as paint and gasoline, but lead can still be found in insulation coating electronics, leaded crystal, storage batteries, as a coating on some candlewicks, as a stabilizer in certain plastics, and in soldering. Some toys, costume jewelry and ceramics made overseas still contain lead.

In older buildings in New York City and elsewhere, some paint, caulking and insulation may still contain lead. As old paint chips or insulation crumble, children and adults may inhale lead dust. Small children can get lead on their hands and absorb it and can swallow lead found on toys and anything else in the household.

Some children and pregnant women suffer lead poisoning due to an eating disorder known as “pica,” which causes cravings for things like dirt and paint chips.

Lead is harmful because it replaces other metals in biochemical reactions and alters the ability of the body’s proteins to perform certain functions. For example, lead displaces calcium in proteins that transmit electrical impulses in the brain, which damages the individual’s ability to think or recall information.

Young children (up to 3 years old) absorb lead more easily than older kids and adults, and lead is more harmful to them because of their size and development.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lead Poisoning?

In many cases, there are no overt symptoms of lead poisoning. Many parents discover high lead levels in their children through mandated testing or when they ask their pediatricians about developmental delays.

Exposure to lead may cause:

  • Headaches
  • Behavioral problems and trouble concentrating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • A metallic taste in the mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle and joint weakness
  • Looking pale.

Eventually, the damage of long-term exposure to lead may cause:

  • Brain damage
  • Anemia
  • Hearing problems
  • Reproductive system damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death.

Lead poisoning can also cause miscarriage. A baby born to a mother with lead poisoning may have damage to his or her brain, kidneys and nervous system.

How Do Doctors Test For And Treat Lead Poisoning?

At each doctor’s appointment in New York for children from age 6 months to 6 years, your health care provider should assess your child for risk of high lead exposure. Your health care providers may use a questionnaire to determine whether your child is at higher risk of lead poisoning and needs a lead test. The first of eight questions on the form asks:

Does your child live in or regularly visit a building built before 1978 with potential lead exposures, such as peeling or chipping paint, recent or ongoing renovation or remodeling, or high levels of lead in the drinking water?

If you answer “yes” or “not sure” to any of the questions on the questionnaire, your child will likely be referred for a blood test. This requires a small amount of blood to be taken from a finger prick or vein and tested for lead. Blood can be drawn at a doctor’s office, hospital, clinic or lab.

Children with test results showing lead at a level of more than 5 micrograms per deciliter (5 µg/dL ) of blood may require additional action.

  • At 5 to 14 µg/dL: Your child should be tested again in one to three months. Your doctor should ask about your child’s development and diet, and counsel you about potential sources of lead exposure. A representative from the local Health Department may visit your home for additional counseling and to help identify lead sources.
  • At 15 to 44 µg/dL: Your child should be tested again in 30 days or sooner. Your doctor should ask about your child’s development and diet, and counsel you about potential sources of lead exposure. A representative from the local Health Department should visit your home to help identify lead sources.
  • At 45 µg/dL or higher: Your child needs immediate medical care and testing again after treatment is complete. Once treated, your child may remain hospitalized until the source of his or her lead poisoning has been identified and removed. A representative from the local Health Department will visit your home to help determine the sources of lead exposure.

Treatment for lead poisoning requires eliminating lead from the body in one or two steps:

  • Whole-bowel irrigation if lead chips are visible in an abdominal x-ray. This requires administering a laxative until an x-ray shows no lead. Because of the volume of laxative required, it may be administered via a nasogastric tube (NGT).
  • Chelation, which means administering drugs that bind lead into forms that can be excreted. Chelation removes only relatively small amounts of metal. If the amount of lead in the patient’s body is very large, multiple rounds of chelation over many years may be required, according to the Merck Manual of medical information.

Contact a New York City Lead Poisoning Lawyer

Because manufacturers have known about the dangers of lead exposure to children and adults for a generation or more, they can be held liable when individuals exposed to their products have suffered harm due to lead poisoning. You may be eligible for compensation for your medical bills, including money for therapy, assistance and special education your child may need, and for your lost income due to an injury related to lead poisoning.

If you or a loved one of yours suffers medical problems related to lead poisoning, contact an NYC lead poisoning lawyer at David Resnick & Associates, P.C. for a free review of your case and your legal options.

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