The Dangers of Lead
Consumption of the mineral LEAD by humans and animals can have
some very serious impacts on their health. This poisoning of a warm-blooded
vertebrate's body is especially harmful to the young of the species.
Poisoning of the human system by LEAD presents itself most often in the nervous
system, the red blood cells, the bones, and the kidneys, but it can also affect
High doses of LEAD can cause brain damage, mental retardation, behavior
problems, anemia, and a wide variety of other serious damage to the body parts,
and in extreme cases, even death.
Where does this mineral come from? LEAD is a very useful metal for making
things. For decades it was added to paint to make the product last longer and
flow easier. The consumption of fuels by motor vehicle engines used to be a
source as LEAD was included in the fuel to make the engine run better.
We even used to manufacture water pipe made of LEAD. We use to make solder with
a lot of LEAD in it because it melted at a low temperature and was much easier
to use. Then we used the LEAD-based solder to assemble water pipe systems,
including drinking fountains used in schools, and even used the solder to seal
food cans. LEAD was everywhere and still is, but now, it is present in a
somewhat different way.
For centuries we have known that the mineral is a toxin to the human system.
Such knowledge did not turn toward preventive action until the second half of
this century. In the 1960s, major steps were initiated to reduce our exposure to
the mineral LEAD.
Today, the use of LEAD in household paint is banned, the use of LEAD in gasoline
has been phased out, and LEAD has been eliminated in the manufacture of hundreds
of other products.
But LEAD is still with us. It usually is not new LEAD, but rather it is the old
LEAD found in the contaminated soil near roadways, or in the layers of peeling
coats of paint applied long ago. Today, the top contaminator for children is:
deteriorating LEAD paint in older housing.
LEAD has been around a very long time as a poison to the human population. It is
going to take efforts by a lot of people to really achieve a LEAD-free
environment for ourselves and for our future generations. In the next column are
some steps which you personally may wish to consider.