Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead is a heavy, soft, bluish-gray metal that occurs naturally in the rocks and soil of the earth's crust. It is also produced from burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing. Lead has no distinctive taste or smell. The chemical symbol for elemental lead is Pb.

Lead is used to produce batteries, ammunition, pipes, tank linings, solder, casting metals, building construction materials, roofing, scientific electronic equipment, military tracking systems, medical devices, and products to shield x-rays and nuclear radiation. It is used in ceramic glazes and crystal glassware.

Over 90 percent of U.S. adults with elevated blood lead levels are exposed occupationally.

It is estimated nationally that two to three percent of children with blood lead levels of greater than or equal to 10 µg /dL were exposed by lead brought home from work.

The number of children found to have an EBL decreased from 5,588 in 2000 to 936 in 2011.

There were 95,349 children tested for lead during 2011.

All blood lead test results are required to be reported to the DHSS regardless of the age of the individual or the reported lead level.

Children under the age of 6 are at greatest risk for lead poisoning.

Because of health concerns, lead and lead compounds were banned from house paint in 1978; from solder used on water pipes in 1986; from gasoline in 1995; from solder used on food cans in 1996; and from tin-coated foil on wine bottles in 1996. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a limit on the amount of lead that can be used in ceramics.

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body. It can be equally harmful if breathed or swallowed. The part of the body most sensitive to lead exposure is the central nervous system, especially in children, who are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults.

The primary lead hazard to children in Missouri is deteriorated lead-based paint. A child who swallows large amounts of lead can develop brain damage which can cause convulsions and death; the child can also develop blood anemia, kidney damage, colic, and muscle weakness. Repeated low levels of exposure to lead can alter a child's normal mental and physical growth, and result in learning or behavioral problems.

More information on blood lead levels, contact the department's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program, at (573) 751-6102.

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