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Health Effects of Lead

In the United States, about 900,000 children ages 1 to 5 have a blood-lead level above the level of concern. Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies. People can get lead in their body if they:

  • Put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths.

  • Eat paint chips or soil that contains lead.

  • Breathe in lead dust (especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces).

Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:

  • Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.  These objects can have lead dust on them.

  • Children's growing bodies absorb more lead.

  • Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system

  • Behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity)

  • Slowed growth

  • Hearing problems

  • Headaches

Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:

  • Difficulties during pregnancy

  • Other reproductive problems (in both men and women)

  • High blood pressure

  • Digestive problems

  • Nerve disorders

  • Memory and concentration problems

  • Muscle and joint pain

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