Lead is a cumulative protoplasmic poison that may be ingested, inhaled, or
absorbed directly through the skin. Toxic effects are categorized as
gastrointestinal, central nervous system, neuromuscular, hematologic, renal,
or constitutional. Common symptoms include constipation, anorexia, abdominal
pain, weight loss, fatigue, and a characteristic peripheral neuropathy
(wrist drop). Severe poisoning may lead to nephropathy, encephalopathy,
convulsions, and even death.
Lead poisoning may result from occupational exposure (mining, smelters,
sheet metal, battery manufacture, automobile radiator repair, demolition
work, alloys, and metal plating). Poisoning may also occur subsequent to
exposure to leaded containers, lead clay, glazed pottery, solder, paints,
and bullets (wound).
Infants and children aged 9 months to 6 years are particularly susceptible
to the effects of lead due to greater gastrointestinal absorption. Lead
exposure can lead to irreversible IQ deficits, poor academic achievement,
reduced attention span, and hyperactivity.