According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Children’s biological susceptibility to lead is greater than that of adults for four important reasons:

  1. A child’s brain undergoes rapid growth, development and differentiation, and lead can interfere with these extraordinarily complex and delicate processes.  The harm caused by lead poisoning is irreversible and untreatable.
  2. Exposure to lead early in childhood can re-program genes, which can lead to altered gene expression and an associated increased risk of disease later in life.  Childhood lead poisoning can also reduce a child’s capacity to withstand other neurological insults later in life.
  3. Gastrointestinal absorption of lead is enhanced in childhood.  In children up to fifty per cent (50%) of lead that is ingested is absorbed, as compared with only ten per cent (10%) of lead that is ingested by adults is absorbed by them.
  4. When lead poisoning occurs in early childhood, when the immune system is developing, it may result in an immune dysfunction later in life even if there is no adverse effect at the time of the actual lead exposure.  The adverse effect may be latent and may not emerge until the immune system is stressed at a point in time well removed from the exposure.

Childhood Lead Poisoning, World Health Organization p.22 (2010).

Neurological toxicity and lead’s impact on the developing brain of a young child is the most studied, but lead poisoning affects virtually every organ system in the body, including:

  • The Central Nervous System
  • The Peripheral Nervous System
  • The Cardiovascular System
  • The Gastrointestinal System
  • The Renal System
  • The Endocrine System
  • The Immune System
  • The Hematological System

The neurobehavioral changes associated with early exposure to lead are irreversible and permanent.  As a result, lead poisoning, decreased intelligence, cognitive deficits, lower economic and job opportunities have contributed to:

  • Increased Hyperactivity
  • Increased Inattentiveness
  • Failure to Graduate from High School
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Drug Use
  • Incarceration
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