Lead Poisoning

While lead poisoning can cause injury at any age, children are particularly sensitive to its devastating effects, even at levels of exposure once considered too low to cause serious harm. While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has set its current reference level for lead exposure at a concentration of five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dL), it is important to remember that this number merely denotes lead exposure that is significantly higher than normal - it does not constitute a threshold below which blood lead levels can be considered safe. In fact, CDC experts have been unable to identify any level of exposure above zero that can be considered safe for young children, and adverse outcomes are linked to blood lead concentrations well below the current reference level:


Lead serves no beneficial purpose in the human body. Instead, it displaces other elements (calcium in particular) that are critical for normal cellular and organ function. The ability to substitute molecularly for calcium allows lead to pass through the blood-brain barrier, to be absorbed by bone, and to work its myriad toxic actions within the brain and other organs. For instance, accumulation of lead can disrupt the delicate balance of calcium-mediated reactions in cells of all types, irreversibly damaging the cellular environment and triggering programmed cell death. The ubiquity of this mechanism helps explain why lead poisoning manifests in such wide ranging symptoms. It also helps explain why lead is more harmful to young children: since their brains and nervous systems are still developing, any loss or inhibition of normal cellular function can have catastrophic, long-term effects.

The half-life of lead in in the body ranges from one to two months in blood and soft tissue to 25-30 years in bone. Lead stored in the skeleton during childhood can thus be rereleased in adulthood, elevating blood lead levels anew, and causing a new round of damage to body and brain. The permanence of childhood injury and persistence of lead within the skeleton make childhood lead poisoning a truly life-long affliction. Lead poisoning has no cure: while chelation treatment can accelerate removal of lead from blood, it does not remove lead that has already been absorbed by other tissues and - more importantly - cannot undo the damage that lead does to these tissues from the moment it is absorbed.

Because lead poisoning can cause such severe and permanent effects, it is all the more important to prevent, detect, and curtail exposure, as well as to intervene early and often to reduce the impact of lead poisoning on long-term well-being. Lead poisoning can necessitate a lifetime of educational, emotional, and occupational support, and pursuing your child's legal claim may be a vital first step in securing resources to facilitate that support. If your child has been exposed to lead, please contact our legal team see if you have a case by calling 1-800-483-0116 or completing the form on this webpage.

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