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Lead Poisoning


What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning happens when you have dangerous levels of lead in your blood. It commonly happens from the accidental inhalation or ingestion of items that contain lead. Lead is found in paint, batteries, and gasoline fumes. Lead is easily absorbed and can cause nervous system damage.

What increases my risk of lead poisoning?

  • Ingestion of lead-based paint from items such as toys and furniture
  • A hobby that uses lead, such as pottery, stained glass making, and iron crafts
  • Living in an old house or building with lead-based paint and lead pipes
  • Working with or near lead, such as in a mine, sewer, or printing press

What are the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning?

  • Abdominal pain, vomiting, or constipation
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Pale skin, fatigue, or muscle weakness
  • Slow or delayed growth in children
  • Personality changes, mood swings, and trouble sleeping
  • Seizures or a coma

How is lead poisoning diagnosed?

  • Blood tests: Your healthcare provider may have a sample of your blood tested for lead, or signs of lead poisoning, such as anemia (low red blood cells).
  • Abdominal x-ray: This picture of your abdomen may show where the lead is, if it was swallowed.

How is lead poisoning treated?

  • Iron: This medicine may be given to treat anemia, which can be caused by lead poisoning. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much you should take.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D can help decrease blood levels of lead. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much you should take.
  • Chelation therapy: This medicine will bind with lead in the blood so it can be removed through your urine and bowel movement. These may be given as a pill or through an IV. You may need to drink more liquids than usual. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

What are the risks of lead poisoning?

Left untreated, lead poisoning may cause long-term mental and physical problems, and become life-threatening. Severe poisoning can cause seizures or a coma.

Where can I find more information?

  • National Lead Information Center
    422 South Clinton Avenue
    Rochester , NY 14620
    Phone: 1- 800 - 424
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms get worse, or do not go away.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have been sleeping more, or have more difficulty than normal waking up.
  • You have a seizure.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Lead Poisoning

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Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference