Lead poisoning causes

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aksiniya Stevasarova, M.D.


Common causes of lead poisoning include ingestion, inhalation and skin exposure to lead and lead particles.


Life-threatening Causes

  • Life-threatening causes include conditions which may result in death or permanent disability within 24 hours if left untreated.
  • Life-threatening causes of lead poisoning include ingestion of lead base paint by small children, eventually leading to seizures, unconsciousness, coma and even death.

Common Causes

Lead poisoning may be caused by:

  • Occupational hazards
    • In adults, occupational exposure is the main cause of lead poisoning.People can be exposed when working in facilities that produce a variety of lead-containing products; these include radiation shields, ammunition, certain surgical equipment, developing dental x-ray films prior to digital x-rays, fetal monitors, plumbing, circuit boards, jet engines, and ceramic glazes, lead miners and smelters, plumbers and fitters, auto mechanics, glass manufacturers, construction workers, battery manufacturers and recyclers, firing range instructors, and plastic manufacturers are at risk for lead exposure.[1] [2] [2] [3]
  • Ingestion of lead contaminated soil
    • Tetraethyllead, which used to be added to automotive gasoline (and still is added to some aviation gasolines), contributed to soil contamination. Residual lead in soil contributes to lead exposure in urban areas.[4]
  • Ingestion of lead dust or chips from deteriorating lead-based paints.
    • Lead compounds are very colorful and are used widely in paints, [5] and lead paint is a major route of lead exposure in children.[6] A study conducted in 1998–2000 found that 38 million housing units in the US had lead-based paint, down from a 1990 estimate of 64 million.[7] Deteriorating lead paint can produce dangerous lead levels in household dust and soil.[8] Deteriorating lead paint and lead-containing household dust are the main causes of chronic lead poisoning.[9] The lead breaks down into the dust and since children are more prone to crawling on the floor, it is easily ingested.[7]
  • Drinking tap water.
    • It can come from plumbing and fixtures that are either made of lead or have trace amounts of lead in them.[10] [11][12]

Less Common Causes

Less common causes of lead poisoning include exposure to metallic lead via:

    • Imported cosmetics such as Kohl and Surma
    • Folk remedies like Azarcon which contains 95 percent lead and is used to "cure" empacho.
    • Contracted through the mucous membranes through direct contact to mouth, nose, eyes, and breaks in skin.

Genetic Causes

Causes by Organ System

Cardiovascular No underlying causes
Chemical/Poisoning No underlying causes
Dental No underlying causes
Dermatologic No underlying causes
Drug Side Effect No underlying causes
Ear Nose Throat No underlying causes
Endocrine No underlying causes
Environmental No underlying causes
Gastroenterologic No underlying causes
Genetic No underlying causes
Hematologic No underlying causes
Iatrogenic No underlying causes
Infectious Disease No underlying causes
Musculoskeletal/Orthopedic No underlying causes
Neurologic No underlying causes
Nutritional/Metabolic No underlying causes
Obstetric/Gynecologic No underlying causes
Oncologic No underlying causes
Ophthalmologic No underlying causes
Overdose/Toxicity No underlying causes
Psychiatric No underlying causes
Pulmonary No underlying causes
Renal/Electrolyte No underlying causes
Rheumatology/Immunology/Allergy No underlying causes
Sexual No underlying causes
Trauma No underlying causes
Urologic No underlying causes
Miscellaneous No underlying causes

Causes in Alphabetical Order


  1. 2.0 2.1 Dart, Hurlbut, Boyer-Hassen (2004) p. 1424
  2. "Occupational health and safety – chemical exposure". www.sbu.se. Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services (SBU). 2017-03-28. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
  3. Henretig (2006) p. 1310
  4. Gilbert, SG; Weiss, B (2006). "A rationale for lowering the blood lead action level from 10 to 2 μg/dL". Neurotoxicology. 27 (5): 693–701. doi:10.1016/j.neuro.2006.06.008. PMC 2212280. PMID 16889836.
  5. 7.0 7.1 Jacobs, David E.; Clickner, Robert P.; Zhou, Joey Y.; Viet, Susan M.; Marker, David A.; Rogers, John W.; Zeldin, Darryl C.; Broene, Pamela; et al. (2002). "The prevalence of lead-based paint hazards in U.S. housing". Environmental Health Perspectives. 110 (10): A599–606. doi:10.1289/ehp.021100599. JSTOR 3455813. PMC 1241046. PMID 12361941.
  6. Dart, Hurlbut, Boyer-Hassen (2004) p. 1423
  7. "Lead in drinking water". Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  8. "Alum Wins Investigative Reporting Award with Post Team" (html). University of Maryland. February 25, 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  9. "HONORS", The Washington Post, February 23, 2005
  10. Wang A, Wang Q, Song Q, Xu J (2009). "[Study of ALAD and VDR gene polymorphisms associated with lead nephrotoxicity susceptibility]". Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 38 (3): 326–9. PMID 19548578.
  11. Wu S, Yan C, Shen X (2004). "[Molecular genetic susceptibility to lead poisoning]". Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 33 (2): 226–8, 232. PMID 15209014.
  12. Shaik AP, Jamil K (2008). "A study on the ALAD gene polymorphisms associated with lead exposure". Toxicol Ind Health. 24 (7): 501–6. doi:10.1177/0748233708095770. PMID 19028776.

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