Lead Poisoning in Children



More children will inevitably suffer from the ill effects of this, as more lead comes into the atmosphere. At one time, lead poisoning was almost solely blamed on lead-based paints. Children often picked off peeling paint and ate it, so enabling it to accumulate in the system and cause adverse effects.

But in more recent times with the enormous sale of leaded petrol (which is said to increase the efficiency of motor cars), more lead is being pumped into the air. However, this should now gradually lessen in Australia with the reintroduction of unleaded petrol.



The concept is that increased lead in the atmosphere inevitably increases the amount children inhale. Young children are very sensitive to inhaling it. But it may also come from other sources of pollution, and children living near lead mines are said to often have higher than normal levels.

Lead Poisoning Symptoms

They may come on insidiously. Irritability, nervousness, being jumpy, ill at ease, spiteful, bad tempered, feeling weak and lacking normal energy and vitality, are some of the symptoms reported. There may be nausea, vomiting, being off one’s normal food, constipation, headaches, cramps, pains in the abdomen. Occasionally teeth will show a telltale “lead line.” If it worsens, there may be fits. It is possible to undergo special tests to measure the lead levels in the system.



Quite often the child will be referred to a major centre geared to diagnose cases with vague symptoms for which there may not, on the surface, be obvious causes. Diagnosis may be difficult. Investigation and therapy is best carried out at a major centre. After this, endeavoring to shield the child against further lead exposure is the idea. But this may be more of a wish than a possibility.

Children may hold the breath, probably after an emotional upset, or if frightened or angry. They simply stop breathing, and may even go blue in the face or may have a convulsion or two and go unconscious. Various levels occur.



Herein may lay the crux of the problem. The child may know that the episode will guarantee the attention desired – maybe lots of TLC that had been missing! Infants are often smarter than parents give them credit for!

Lead Poisoning Treatment

Ignoring the whole situation is the best idea. The more fuss and attention given to such children, the more they are likely to continue playing on their mother’s goodwill, and will continue with the attention-getting routine. By totally ignoring it, the exercise then has a negative effect and they will soon become tired of this little game. Parents should not blame themselves for it. No harm will befall the infant, who will not suffer any disability and certainly will not become mentally retarded as a result. The parents may have been breath holders themselves, so the baby is merely repeating history.



A child-specialist colleague suggested to me that placing icy-cold flannels over the child’s head and face (with the nose sticking out) invariably caused the child to suddenly inspire, and the procedure was at an end. It sounded a good idea to me. Why not give it a try, if this happens to be your problem?