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QUESTION: What are the long term effects of severe lead poisoning? 07/08/12 Sindh, Pakistan


I was affected with lead when I was eleven or twelve years old. I remember being placed in intensive care and my lead poisoning level was around 152 or something. It had happened because I had eaten lead based paint off the walls and other misc. things such as paper, chalk, etc. My condition was severe and I had a seizure that lasted a day. I was given medication and one particular pill I remember was Che-met. I am currently 22 years old. This all happened in the United States. What are the long term effects of severe lead poisoning? Does something change? Is it really associated with mental illness? What other permanent effects does it have? If you need a detailed description of my personality, my accomplishments, my failures I can provide you with one.


ANSWER: Aug 7 2012

Dear Uzair,

The long term effects of severe lead poisoning many and varied. You might have already seen "Health Impacts of Lead Poisoning" on our website and "Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness" [so yes it is associated with mental illness]; but there are also health impacts which occur later in life. Please see "Lead, Ageing and Death" and "Lead Exposure & Alzheimer's Disease: Is There A Link? A fact sheet for medical professionals"

The difficult thing about lead, is that it causes different health impacts in each individual and it does not cause any one impact in all individuals who are affected by lead. Thus it is not true that everyone exposed to lead will develop a mental illness or high blood pressure or low IQ, though these impacts are frequently found amongst lead-poisoned people.

If you would like to email a detailed description of your personality, accomplishments and failures, then I would be happy to read over it for any health impacts which, from my reading, could be associated with your lead exposure.

The best advice I can give you in general is to always ask the doctor for a blood lead test every time you are having blood drawn for any other reason, or at least annually if you never have other blood tests. This way, you can keep track of what the lead that you are absorbed earlier in life, is doing in your body today. Most of it is stored in the bones but there are certain provocations which make the lead leach out of your bones and into your blood stream, thereby giving the lead an opportunity to damage organs for a second time. The other test which you should have regularly is a blood pressure test because the commonest way for lead to cut your life short is by heart attack or stroke. So keeping an eye on your blood pressure will help you to manage your heart attack or stroke risk. Brain aging and dementia are other important impacts of lead exposure which will be slowed down if you continue to use your brain as much as possible as you age.

The other action that you can take is to find a doctor who can manage your lead exposure and firstly, ensure that you are not being exposed to lead today [eg help you to quit smoking if you are a smoker, because there is lead in tobacco] and keep a watch on research into tertiary prevention of lead poisoning. This is research such as double blind trials on the use of vitamin C or pectin or garlic or other agents which may prevent early death because they remove lead from the body.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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