Lead Poisoning Symptoms & Causes

LIke ThisLIke ThisLIke ThisLIke ThisLIke This

What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning occurs when lead, a metal that was once a common ingredient in paint and is still used in batteries, pipes, pottery and even cosmetics, builds up in the body. Children can get lead in their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips with lead in them. Little by little, lead can collect in your child's blood, brain and bones. Symptoms may take a long time to appear, but at toxic levels, lead poisoning can affect your child's language, attention and even IQ. Lead can affect people of all ages, but children aged 6 and younger are especially at risk, in part because their growing bodies absorb more lead.

  • Lead poisoning is a totally preventable disease.
  • The most common causes of lead poisoning are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings.
  • Lead exposure can harm young children and babies - even before they are born.
  • Even children that seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
  • High levels of lead may also cause seizures, coma and, in rare cases, death.
  • Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

What causes lead poisoning?

How else might my child be exposed to lead? 

  • lead paint or dust in homes built before 1978
  • traditional home remedies, such as azarcon and greta
  • old jewelry
  • drinking water contaminated by old pipes
  • home remodeling.

Symptoms of lead poisoning

Lead poisoning can affect just about every system in the body but often produces no definitive symptoms. Common symptoms of lead poisoning in children include:

  • behavior and learning problems
  • slowed growth
  • hearing problems
  • anemia
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue

Babies in the womb who are exposed to lead through their mothers may have:

  • learning difficulties
  • slowed growth
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

Close