My cousin spent her entire childhood and growing-up years in a house built by my grandfather in 1937. That house was re-painted every three years until her family moved to a flat, where they used a car battery inverter for electrical emergencies. Throughout her childhood, my cousin and her brother suffered from a weak constitution. They often had stomach upsets - cramps, nausea, and were generally lethargic. Neither of the brother-sister duo did very well in academics.
These facts seemed ordinary and didn’t bother me until I recently read that if one’s house was built and painted before 1978, there was a good chance of the paint being lead-heavy. Lead paint causes lead poisoning in adults and children. Also, inverter batteries manufactured even a decade ago, emitted lead fumes, poisoning the inhabitants of a house.
Lead exposure is very dangerous especially for growing children who are 6 or younger, as it interferes with some of the body's basic functions. A human body cannot tell the difference between lead and calcium, which is a mineral that strengthens bones. Like calcium, lead remains in the bloodstream for a few weeks and is then absorbed into the bones, where it can collect for a lifetime.
Lead poisoning is often not easy to detect as no symptoms may occur. Also, symptoms that do occur, may resemble common illnesses. For example, tiredness or hyperactivity, irritability and loss of appetite/nausea, weight loss, reduced attention span, difficulty in sleeping, and constipation.
If lead poisoning is not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
1. Damage to the brain and nervous system
2. Behaviour and learning problems, such as hyperactivity
3. Slow growth
4. Hearing problems
6. Children may suffer seizures, coma and even death in rare cases of acute lead poisoning.
It may so happen that your home has a plumbing system, which includes lead or lead solder. Your water utility may have lead service lines. Lead poisoning is also difficult to detect because you cannot see, smell or taste lead. Boiling potable water will not get rid of lead and can on the other hand, increase its concentration in water.
If you suspect your family members or office colleagues may be victims of lead poisoning, get them tested. Lead poisoning is detected by the Blood Lead Test and the Blood Lead Level or BLL. Also get a professional to check your house, garden, play area and office for any source of lead poisoning.