The effects of lead poisoning on children's brains are irreversible and untreatable. Numerous research studies have linked lead poisoning to a wide array of effects on brain function and development. Now the children affected by recent contamination of the water supply in Flint may experience the effects of lead in five years.

High levels of lead have tainted Flint's main water supply for at least a year, prompting extensive emergency measures to keep residents especially children, safe. In November, residents filed a law suit against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the city of Flint, the State of Michigan and other federal officials who are held responsible for the water crisis.

The investigation comes after the water source of Flint, where more than 100,000 residents got water from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron, got contaminated with lead as residents complained of strangely-colored tap water. Studies showed that the water has increased levels of lead, ten times higher than previous measurements.

A battery of tests in October showed that Flint's water supply may have caused increased levels of lead in the blood of children affected. Kids, especially those who are six-years-old and below, are more vulnerable to the effects of lead to the body.

Lead is a naturally-occurring metal found deep within the ground. With its abundance on Earth, it has many uses like in paints, gasoline and even pipes. The most common cause of lead poisoning and exposure are from lead-based paints in older homes, household dust, lead crystal, contaminated soil and drinking water.

Lead is a neurotoxic substance that can affect brain function and development. Those kids who were exposed to increased lead levels are at an elevated risk for cognitive and behavioral problems during development. No lead level is safe and eliminating all possible sources of contamination is recommended.

People exposed to lead over time may experience abdominal pains, constipation, depression, being easily distracted, forgetfulness, irritability and nausea. Children, however, many experience worse symptoms brought about by lead poisoning.

When lead blood levels are below 5µg/dL, adults may experience decreased kidney function. Pregnant women may manifest reduce fetal growth while children may experience decreased academic achievement, decreased specific cognitive measures, decrease IQ (Intellectual quotient), behavioral problems and increased incidence of attention-related behaviors.

Increased lead in blood levels below 10 µg/dL in adults may experience increased blood pressure and increased incidence of tremor. Children may manifest delayed puberty, decreased IQ, decreased hearing ability and reduce postnatal growth in infants.

Photo: Jeff Turner | Flickr 

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