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lead poisoning: Effects and Treatment

Acute lead poisoning can result in abdominal discomfort, nervous system damage, and encephalitis. Chronic exposure is characterized by a blue line on the gums and can lead to damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells. Even low levels can contribute to hypertension in older people or to silent lead poisoning in exposed children, which affects the developing brain and leads to visual-motor problems, lowered intelligence, shortened attention span, and antisocial behavior. Lower doses may be treated by altering the diet to counteract lead's effects and and cleaning the person's environment to reduce intake. Higher doses are treated with chelating agents , drugs that remove lead from the body, but chelation's effects do not appear to extend to the brain. Symptoms recur upon subsequent exposure, and some of the effects of a mother's exposure can be passed to her children and grandchildren.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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