Lead Contamination on Fetal Brain Development

Write a 6 page essay on The Effects of Lead Contamination on Fetal Brain Development.

From the discussion it is clear that the most common source of lead poisoning in the United States is from paint. Leaded based paint was banned in 1978 many decades after European countries. however, there are many old buildings in need of renovation that still contain lead pipes and paint. Steingraber notes that the effects of lead on the fetus were first observed by women worked in the white lead factories in 1911. The female workers found that once pregnant the disease, plumbism, seemed to be cured. Plumbism refers to the erosion of the brain capillaries from lead and indeed the women would have felt relief once pregnant as then the lead crosses the placenta into the fetus.

As the report stresses lead poisoning causes long term, serious defects as it disturbs an enzyme process that produces heme, which is essential for cellular metabolism. Children under three and fetuses are the most susceptible as the brain has not completed the blood-brain barrier. Lead causes hemorrhage and swelling as it destroys the capillaries. The half life of lead in the blood is 35 days, it remains in soft tissue for 40 days and is then stored in the bones for 20 or 30 years. The lead levels may not reflect an accurate count of the total lead in the system as lead is released when calcium declines and soldiers with shrapnel wounds may have resurfacing lead return to the bloodstream. Lead exposure can happen in some unusual ways such as having consumed homemade liquor or moonshine or from chewing on an imported toy.


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