Lead: See Where It Led!


In spite of its diverse uses, lead poses a threat to human health. Lead is a metal found in the Earth’s crust and has been used for years, its bad effect on human health has been known but only recently people and governments, especially in developed countries, are giving more attention to their health and environment. Continuous exposure to lead can be quite dangerous, if not fatal. Due to its bad effect on human health, developed countries are trying to bring about, through decreasing its use, a lead-free environment.

It is sometimes added to houses’ painting material to make the paint last longer. When the paint peels off, it poses a threat as particles of lead become loose. Unfortunately, drinking water may be contaminated with lead; that does not mean that rivers are contaminated with lead. However, the materials used for plumbing system such as pipes and faucets sometimes contain lead, and when these materials get corroded, lead pollutes drinking water. Lead is also used in some children’s toys, whether in the plastic itself or in the paint, but in both cases it is dangerous, because children have a habit of putting everything in their mouths.

Continuous exposure to lead causes lead poisoning. Unfortunately, children are more threatened by lead poisoning than adults. Exposure to amounts of lead can cause mental retardation among children. Although there is treatment for lead poisoning, sometimes damage can be irreversible. The bad news is that lead poisoning is hard to discover. Even people who appear normal may have high amounts of lead in their blood. It is only when it has accumulated to an extent that is considered dangerous that some symptoms appear.

Adults’ symptoms are different from the symptoms of children. An adult who has been exposed to lead suffers from decline in mental functioning, high blood pressure and muscular weakness. On the other hand, children suffer from learning difficulties, abdominal pain and vomiting. Newborns who have been exposed to lead before birth suffer from slowed growth and learning difficulties.

A citizen of a developing country is normally more susceptible to lead poisoning than someone from developed countries, because developed countries normally have strict rules concerning the use of lead. For example, since late 1970s lead was not added to paint and most of developing countries’ concerns nowadays come from old houses while laws in developing countries are less strict and lead is still being used in different industries.

Not everything that is found in nature is useful for us. Although lead is a natural element, it causes severe harm to humans. It is found in the Earth’s crust for a reason, but that does not mean that we must use it in our life. Stop using lead and save more lives.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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