Lead Poisoning/Plumbism

Lead Poisoning/Plumbism

Lead poisoning is a condition when a person experiences lead deposition in the body. Lead itself is a chemical element in the form of a metal which is very toxic to the body . Lead poisoning can damage the function of organs and systems of the human body , especially children.

Lead can enter the body by being absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled. There is no safe limit for lead levels in the body, even low lead levels can still cause health problems.

When entering the body, lead will spread through the blood to various body organs, such as the brain, kidneys, and liver. After that, lead will settle in the teeth and bones for a long time.

Even in small amounts, continuous exposure to lead will lead to accumulation of lead in the body until the levels are sufficient to cause symptoms of poisoning. The process of accumulating lead poison until it finally causes symptoms can take months to years.

Children under 6 years old are a group that is vulnerable to lead poisoning because they often put objects or their fingers in their mouths. Even so, anyone can experience lead poisoning.

Causes of Lead Poisoning

Generally, lead poisoning results from exposure to small amounts of lead for a long time.

Lead is a chemical element that is naturally contained in the earth. However, lead elements can also be found in things around humans, such as:

  • Water pipe
  • House paint
  • Watercolor and art supplies
  • Battery
  • Gas
  • Cosmetics
  • Children's toys
  • Canned food
  • Land
  • Dust on household appliances
  • ceramics

The main potential for lead poisoning comes from consuming tap water connected to metal pipes or water tanks. Lead content in the faucet, pipe or tank causes water to be contaminated. If this water is consumed in the long term, lead will precipitate in the body and cause poisoning.

In addition, there are also several factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing lead poisoning, namely:

  • Infants
    and young children are more prone to lead poisoning with more harmful effects.
  • Hobbies
    Someone who has a hobby of making jewelry or handicrafts using lead solder has a higher risk of being exposed to lead.
  • Place of residence
    People who live in old buildings are more at risk of lead poisoning, because some types of old production paint still contain high levels of lead. Dust or flakes of lead-containing paint can be inhaled or eaten by the occupants of the house.
    Now, the level of lead in paint is limited. However, in developing countries, such as Indonesia, some house paints still do not meet the safe levels of lead approved by WHO (world health organization).
  • Occupation
    A person who works in a battery or firearms factory, mining, or an oil and gas processing plant has a higher risk of lead poisoning.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

Symptoms of lead poisoning usually appear when lead levels in the body are very high. The following are some of the symptoms of lead poisoning that children can experience:

  • Easily feel tired, pale, and lethargic due to anemia
  • Delay in growth and development
  • Difficulty concentrating and studying
  • Behavior becomes more aggressive
  • Appetite and weight loss
  • Have pica eating disorder
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Weakness in muscles and joints
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • seizures
  • Loss of hearing ability
  • Moaning his mouth felt like metal

Meanwhile for adults, the symptoms that can be experienced due to lead poisoning are:

  • Hypertension
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Hard to sleep
  • Headache
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet and hands
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • The mood ( mood ) is out of control
  • Difficulty having children

In pregnant women, lead exposure can increase the risk of stillbirth, premature birth, or low birth weight . In addition, exposure to lead in the fetus can cause miscarriage, as well as damage to the brain, kidneys and nervous system of the developing fetus.

When to see a doctor

Do an examination and consult a doctor if you or your child experience symptoms of lead poisoning as mentioned above, especially if acute symptoms occur, such as severe abdominal pain accompanied by cramps, vomiting, seizures, and loss of consciousness to coma .

Immediately see a doctor if you or your child is accidentally exposed to large amounts of lead, for example ingesting batteries, watercolors, or house paint, even though there are no symptoms at the time of the incident or some time after.

Diagnosis of Lead Poisoning

To diagnose lead poisoning, first the doctor will conduct a question and answer regarding the symptoms and complaints that are experienced. The doctor will then also carry out a complete physical examination.

To confirm the diagnosis, a blood test can be the first choice to detect lead content in the body. The level of lead in the blood that must be watched out for and monitored, both for children and adults, is 5–10 μg/dL. If it exceeds 45 μg/dL, treatment should be started immediately.

If needed, other supporting tests can be carried out, such as checking iron levels in the blood, X-rays , and bone marrow biopsies.

Lead Poisoning Treatment

For patients with low levels of lead poisoning, treatment can be done by avoiding exposure to lead, such as avoiding environments that are at high risk of lead contamination and disposing of items that are sources of contamination. This action is enough to reduce the level of lead in the blood.

For patients suffering from high levels of lead poisoning, doctors will provide therapy in the form of:

  • Activated
    carbon Consuming activated carbon can bind lead in the digestive tract to be excreted with urine.
  • Chelation therapy with EDTA
    This treatment is done to bind lead in the blood by giving the drug calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) . This medicine is given as an injection into a vein.

Not all effects of lead poisoning are treatable, especially if it has chronic effects.

Lead Poisoning Complications

If left untreated, lead poisoning with even low blood lead levels can cause permanent intellectual impairment and impaired brain development in children.

Meanwhile, people with high levels of lead poisoning who are not treated can experience more serious complications, such as:

  • Nervous system disorder
  • seizures
  • Kidney damage
  • Lost consciousness
  • Death 

Prevention of Lead Poisoning

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent lead poisoning, namely:

  • Keep your hands clean
    To reduce the risk of dust or dirt that has been contaminated with lead entering your mouth, always wash your hands after doing activities outside, before eating, and before going to bed.
  • Take off your shoes before entering the house
    . This is done to reduce the risk of soil containing lead entering the house.
  • Clean the dust and dirt in the house regularly
    Clean the inside of the house, including the bathroom, regularly by sweeping, mopping and wiping the furniture with a damp cloth.
  • Clean children's toys regularly
    . This action should be done, especially when these toys are often taken out of the house. If possible, avoid children playing on the ground by providing a sandbox or planting grass in the ground around the house.
  • Consumption of nutritious food
    Intake of nutritious foods, such as calcium, vitamin C , and iron can reduce the absorption of lead in the body, especially for children.
  • Paint the house with paint without lead content.
    This is done to reduce the risk of lead deposition in the body for the long term.
  • Be careful when using tap water.
    If you are using plumbing containing lead, make sure you let the water run for 1 minute before using it. Avoid using hot water from the tap for cleaning baby equipment or cooking. Use a water filter if necessary.

In addition, factory workers are advised to always work according to work safety procedures, for example by using personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to lead.

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