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What is it?

Lead poisoning is a preventable condition that results from environmental exposure to lead. This exposure can result in permanent health damage, especially among children.

Lead poisoning can affect almost all parts of the body, including the central nervous system, kidneys and reproductive organs. It commonly causes weakness and abdominal discomfort and less often causes abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, foot and wrist drop and anaemia. In children especially, it impairs cognitive development, which can lead to learning disabilities and behavioural problems. At very high levels, it can even result in hallucinations, coma, seizures, and death.

Much lead exposure comes from inhaling or ingesting deteriorated paint containing lead found in older houses. Even household dust and soil can be contaminated with lead from paint chips, and children are especially vulnerable as they tend to put a lot of things in their mouth. As poisoning from lead became known as a problem, lead began to be removed from paint products and unleaded petrol was introduced. Following these and other measures, there has been a significant reduction in blood lead concentrations in the general population of Australia and many other countries.

Several work settings and certain hobbies may expose people to potentially high levels of lead:

Work Settings

  • lead smelting plants
  • construction work
  • painters
  • house renovators
  • steel welding
  • bridge reconstruction
  • firing range instructors and cleaners
  • remodelling and refinishing
  • foundry work
  • scrap metal and battery recycling
  • auto repair work
  • cable splicing, and
  • battery, glass and ceramic ware manufacture.

In Australia, it is a requirement that many workers be regularly monitored for lead poisoning.

Hobbies

  • casting bullets, lead shot or fishing sinkers
  • home remodelling
  • target shooting at firing ranges
  • lead soldering
  • auto repair work
  • stained glass work, and
  • glazed pottery work.

Last Review Date: August 9, 2015