Lead Poisoning


Lead is a component of paints, gasolines, storage batteries, glass, ceramics and as part of plumbing pipes.

Inorganic lead is absorbed slowly via the
respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts,
but poorly from the skin; organic lead
compounds are volatile & are absorbed from through the skin and respiratory tract.

Absorption via the gastrointestinal tract
is more in children, and is increased in
the presence of low dietary calcium, iron
deficiency and ingestion on an empty stomach.

In the blood stream, most of the lead is
bound to RBC and remainder is
distributed to soft tissues of the brain and kidney.

Clinical features of lead poisoning

The following are the clinical features of lead poisoning:

Acute lead poisoning

  • manifest with signs and symptoms of encephalopathy and colic hemolytic anaemia and basophilic stippling may be present

Subacute lead poisoning

  • headache, fatigue, intermittent abdominal cramps, myalgia and arthralgia

Chronic lead poisoning

Presentation is muti-systemic:

  • Fatigue, myalgia

Central nervous system:

  • headache, difficulty in
    concentrating, irritability, peripheral neuropathy, and seizures

Gastrointestinal tract

  • colics, anorexia, epigastric tenderness, constipation and metallic taste may occur

Diagnosis of lead poisoning

  • Blood level of lead


  • Remove from exposure
  • Supportive care
  • Chelation therapy: Dimercaprol,
    penicillamine or Calcium disodium

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