What happens to the body?
When you consume lead in your water, it enters your digestive system and is dispersed throughout the body. The main parts that feel the impact of the lead are the brain, liver, kidneys, and bones.
Many different factors such as age, sex, genetic makeup and amount of lead consumed determine a person’s reaction to lead.
Even the lowest levels of lead can harm a child. Common side effects of consuming lead include:
- Behavior and learning problems
- Lower IQ and hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing problems
- Rare occasions, death
The younger a child is, the more susceptible they are to these issues. That being said, a child not born is at greater risk if lead is introduced to their system through the mother. This can cause reduced fetus growth or premature birth. Even after birth, lead can be passed down to an infant through breast feeding.
Though adults have stronger immune systems than that of a child, drinking water contaminated with lead still poses a threat. Adults can suffer from:
- Cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
- Decreased kidney function
- Reproductive problems (in both men and women)
Many effects are permanent.
Who is at high risk?
Consuming any amount of lead is not good for the body however, children (including the developing fetus) are more likely to feel the effects. This is due to the fact that their bodies absorb 4-5 times more lead than adults if ingested. If a child is malnourished, they are more susceptible to the side effects. Their bodies will absorb more lead is there is a lack of key nutrients such as calcium or iron.
Is there treatment?
There are very few treatments after drinking water contaminated with lead. Low levels of lead in the blood have no treatment. Children exposed to lead symptoms can receive chelation therapy. This process binds a chemical to the lead to where the body cannot absorb it.
The best way to treat this is prevention. You can call your local water supplier to come test out your water for free.
Is there a safe amount of lead consumption?
Unfortunately, there is no known level that can be considered safe. The Environmental Protection Agency does set limits to the amount of lead water can contain. Though the EPA has it set at 15 micrograms per liter, toxicologist do believe the standard should be lowered to 10 micrograms per liter.