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QUESTION: How does lead harm the body? 26 Apr 2004, Kenya

how exactly does lead poisoning harm the body? why is it dangerous and how exactly does it lower the I.Q of children. what does it do to the body? Please give me the answers to this questions and the sources of the answers e.g. medical books and all. I will be waiting anxiously.

ANSWER: 30 Apr 2004

Dear Sir,

There are many books and thousands of journal articles written in order to answer this question so I hardly know where to start and it's difficult because I don't know how much you know already. As J I Anetor has stated: "More has been written about the causation and symptomatology of poisoning by Pb than by any other toxic agent (Orfilia, 1817, Johnston, 1964)." [REF: "High Blood Lead Levels In The General Nigerian Population: Causes And Implications" A paper presented at the conference on phasing out leaded Gasoline in Nigeria, held at the Nicon Hilton Hotel Abuja, 15th to 16th Nov, 2001, by J.I. ANETOR, Department of chemical pathology and The Heavy Metal Research Group, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, E-mail: uchmed(AT)skannet(DOT)com(DOT)ng WEB:  Put simply, the body confuses lead for calcium, iron and zinc and whenever lead replaces calcium, iron, or zinc, being toxic, lead causes damaging changes to both the architecture and the functioning of every organ and body system.

For instance, see the article whose Abstract states:

"Cadmium, lead, mercury, and aluminium are toxic metals that may interact metabolically with nutritionally essential metals. Iron deficiency increases absorption of cadmium, lead, and aluminium. Lead interacts with calcium in the nervous system to impair cognitive development. Cadmium and aluminium interact with calcium in the skeletal system to produce osteodystrophies. Lead replaces zinc on heme enzymes and cadmium replaces zinc on metallothionein. Selenium protects from mercury and methyl mercury toxicity. Aluminium interacts with calcium in bone and kidneys, resulting in aluminium osteodystrophy. Calcium deficiency along with low dietary magnesium may contribute to aluminium-induced degenerative nervous disease." [REF: Toxic and essential metal interactions by Robert A. Goyer in Annual Review of Nutrition, July 1997, Vol. 17, pp. 37-50, you can purchase the full article online for US $ 20.00]

I asked a retired Chemistry lecturer from Sydney University to write a fact sheet explaining the mechanism for lead poisoning and he wrote "Heavy Metals And Amino acids - The Chemical Background of Lead Poisoning

I hope this helps.
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

Also see: An examination of knowledge, attitudes and practices related to lead exposure in South Western Nigeria, Eugenious O Adebamowo, Oluwole A Agbede, Mynepalli KC Sridhar and Clement A Adebamowo

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