Lead is a heavy metal and an extremely toxic substance.  The human body has absolutely no need for it and it is harmful even in very small quantities.  There is no safe level of lead in a child’s body.  The Federal Government, Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health of the States of New York and New Jersey have all adopted the definition of childhood lead poisoning as a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dcl) or higher.

In 2012, the CDC issued findings that blood lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter and higher are also a health and safety concern, capable of causing injury.  It is mistaken by the child’s body as calcium, and is stored in the child’s bones.  It is also mistaken by the child’s body as iron and it is carried in the blood and stored in the child’s body’s soft tissue and in  her brain.  Lead is especially toxic to children under the age of seven, as that is the age when brain development occurs.

Under the age of seven, a child’s brain develops the bridges over which information travels, is stored, processed, retained and is recalled.  Lead impacts the growth and development of dendrites, the finger-like endings, which allow brain cells to communicate with each other.  It also impacts the myelin, which is a coating that allows brain cells to communicate quickly with each other, and it interferes with neurotransmitters in the brain that allow the transfer of impulses between brain cells.

Childhood lead poisoning causes the following serious injuries:

  • Decreased Brain Function
  • Lowered Intelligence (IQ)
  • Cognitive Deficits
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Damage to the kidney, cardiovascular and nervous system
  • Developmental Delays and Autistic-like Symptoms

Lead poisoning:

  • Retards the organic development of the child’s brain
  • Decreases the level of brain function
  • Slows down brain function

As a result, as a child progresses through each grade in school the child is expected to have increasing difficulty.  The child is not expected to do as well in school or achieve a level of education as high as if the child had not been lead poisoned.  The difference in the child’s ability is the child’s measurable damage.   The damage caused by childhood lead poisoning is permanent and irreversible.  Lead poisoning therefore affects not only a child’s ability to learn but also later decreases the ability to earn a living as an adult.
It has been documented in the literature that the symptoms of lead poisoning are sometimes misdiagnosed as autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder.  This is because Autism Spectrum Disorder is present when a constellation of symptoms is present.  If lead poisoning has caused these symptoms to be present then it is fair to say that the diagnosis of ASD is as a result of the child’s lead poisoning.

The number of these serious conditions and the severity of the conditions that a lead poisoned child may exhibit may depend upon the age of the child at the time of the exposure, the level of lead in the blood and the length of the exposure.  Many times a child is exposed and poisoned for a long period of time before the diagnosis is made and it is difficult to say exactly what the highest level of lead was in the child’s blood because of the manner in which healthcare providers collect and test for the presence of lead in children.

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