Lead is one of the most extensively studied toxins, with a mountain of research linking it to a variety of adverse health effects. It also happens to be one of the most abundant toxins in the world today.
What is lead?
Lead is a toxic metal that disrupts normal brain development and causes irreversible brain damage in children. It is also linked to other health problems. Lead can be found naturally within the earth and soil, but it’s also a common byproduct of industrial processes.
Lead’s health effects
Because the structure of lead mimics calcium, it is readily absorbed and taken up into our bodies, which then misappropriate it into our cells and bones. Since the brain uses a lot of calcium, lead is especially disruptive to neurons, which is why lead poisoning is linked to cognitive deficits and behavioral changes. As early as 312 B.C., the ancient Romans noticed that lead exposure seemed to cause people to behave strangely.
Lead also causes a number of other health problems:
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Hearing loss
- ADHD symptoms
- Lowered IQ
- Anemia & hypertension
Lead exposure can also trigger epigenetic changes that alter how DNA is expressed in a way that lasts for generations. A 2015 study in Scientific Reports found that grandchildren could inherit epigenetic marks form their grandmother’s exposure to lead. (Hesman-Saey, 12-24-2016)
If lead is toxic, why is it still used?
Like every contaminant in our world, lead is also a useful material. As Ben Paynter notes, “Lead is insidiously handy. It’s hard but malleable, is relatively common, melts at a low enough temperature to be workable, and doesn’t rust. …Lead was the key to a lot of technologies. It made bullets heavy, paint opaque, and gasoline more potent.” (Paynter, 2016)
Additional information on lead:
- Lead in water
Additional information contained in our eBook:
- Understanding different lead levels & what they mean