The Hazards of Lead
Maybe it's not true, as pundits were saying a few years back, that lead paint is the new asbestos. Then again, maybe it is.
After fading from public consciousness for a few years, questions about lead's impacts have reemerged, stimulating renewed debate about whether we are appropriately protecting our children -- especially in cities where the sources of lead are both prolific and pervasive and where new awareness of lead poisoning in middle- and upper-income city kids is setting up alarms in the medical establishment. But with public policy makers sparring with children's advocates and scientists often at odds with one another, it's hard to get a fix on what it all means for you.
Physical Effects of Lead
What is incontrovertible is the fact that lead and children do not mix. The absorption, either by ingestion or inhalation, of too much lead by young children (particularly those under 6 whose bodies absorb more of it than older kids or adults when exposed) can result in the development of severe physical problems -- damaged kidneys and central nervous systems, interference with blood cell formation, even death. Clearly, this is not something to trifle with.
Cognitively, it's ugly too. Children with high blood lead levels (BLLs) are at greater risk for developmental delays, permanent learning disabilities, fine motor coordination issues, even a drop in IQ. Furthermore, while a causal relationship has not yet been established, there is mounting evidence that lead exposure may be associated with many of the symptoms associated with ADHD.
What is still very much up for grabs is: (1) how much lead in the blood is "safe," (2) what sources of lead are the ones to worry about, and (3) how crazy parents should get about protecting their children against lead.