Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis
Lead poisoning defines a state in which there is an excessive amount of lead in the blood. Lead is a metal. When ingested in excess it inhibits one of the crucial steps in blood formation. This may cause severe anemia, especially among children, who are more susceptible than adults. Acute intoxication may become apparent with severe abdominal pain and neurologic symptoms such as confusion. Children are more sensitive than adults to lead poisoning and can have subtle symptoms such as speech and language deficits and learning problems. Adults whose professions involve exposure to lead, such as construction workers and painters, are at risk.

Living With Your Diagnosis
If lead poisoning is highly likely, the results of simple blood and urine tests are diagnostic. Leadpoisoning anemia is characterized by the presence of small blood cells with small spots (basophilic stippling). Lead blocks an enzyme essential for red blood cell formation; other products accumulate in these cells and are excreted in the urine. Therefore, a urine test is part of the diagnosis. Another test is to measure the level of lead itself in the blood. This is used as a screening tool and provides a measurement of the severity of exposure. The first and most important step in managing lead poisoning is to identify and eradicate the source. You should always be careful with your children’s toys, including those in public areas, such as swings. Newspapers and magazines are a source of lead, and children should not be allowed to touch or play with them. Most pediatricians obtain a lead level in the infants blood as a screening test. Lead poisoning can cause chronic damage but can be fully managed if correctly diagnosed in the early stages.

For very sick patients, admission to a hospital is advised. The doctor may administer drugs that bind to lead in the circulation and help excrete it faster. The patient may have to continue the medication after discharge to make sure that the body is free of the metal.

The DOs
• Make sure toys are lead free and that children avoid contact with newspapers and magazines.
• Let water run for 20 to 30 seconds before using it for cooking or drinking if your water supply has been found to contain lead.

The DON’Ts
• Avoid overexertion.
• Do not allow children to eat paint chips or mouth newspapers and magazines.
• Do not work around lead without taking proper precautions.
• Do not drink or cook with water that has just come out of the faucet if your water supply is found to contain lead. Also avoid using hot water directly from the faucet, because hot water leaches more lead from pipes. Boiling water does not remove lead.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you or your child experiences severe abdominal pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest pain.
• If you believe you or your child has been exposed to lead.

MedWeb Hematology: http://www.gen.emory.edu/medweb.hematology.html
MedMark Hematology: http://medmark.bit.co.kr/hematol.html
National Lead Information Center: http://www.nsc.org/ehc/lead.htm
Housing and Urban Development Office of Lead Hazard Control: http://www.hud.gov/lea/leahome.html
Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics-Lead Program: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/lead/index.html