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Childhood Lead Poisoning Can Cause Permanent Brain Injury

A study recently presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago illustrates the long-term effects of childhood exposure to lead. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center researchers found that childhood lead poisoning damages the regions of the brain that control decision-making. These brain injuries persist into adulthood.

Most childhood lead poisoning occurs because of lead paint. Lead-based paint is no longer legal, but it is still present in many older homes. Paint chips and even dust from walls can cause lead poisoning in children who eat the chips or inhale the dust. Lead poisoning can cause brain injury and result in seizures, mental retardation, coma, or even death. However, many cases of lead poisoning are subtle. The only symptoms may be a lower IQ or difficulty controlling impulses.

The researchers from Cincinnati examined 33 adults who had elevated blood levels of lead as children. All of the subjects had decreased IQ and criminal histories. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans showed that the frontal lobe of the brain was permanently damaged by lead exposure. The frontal lobe develops late in adolescence. Frontal lobe damage causes problems with decision making, impulse control, and focus. The researchers note that other regions of the brain try to make up for the frontal lobe injury, but they cannot perform the same tasks as efficiently.

This study indicates that brain damage caused by lead poisoning in childhood does not reverse as levels of lead in the blood decrease. The damage is permanent, and it will affect the individual’s intelligence and behavior throughout life.

Approximately 250,000 children in the United States currently have elevated levels of lead in the blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned lead paint in 1978, but it is still present on many walls. Peeling paint or remodeling work can exposure individuals to toxic lead paint particles. Symptoms of lead poisoning may include seizures, convulsions, nerve damage, or changes in behavior. In the past few years, several children’s toys have been recalled because of lead paint. Pay attention to product recalls to keep your children safe.

When remodeling an older home, make sure that children are not in the house. Wear dust masks to avoid inhaling lead dust particles, and be sure to thoroughly clean up after the work is complete.

Lead paint poisoning is a major problem in older rental properties, especially in big cities. Landlords are responsible for not only making tenants aware of any lead paint but also properly maintaining the properties to prevent lead paint poisoning. Property owners can be held liable for lead poisoning and associated brain injury if they allow old paint to flake off the walls or otherwise expose tenants to lead paint or dust.

If you or a loved one have suffered a brain injury due to negligence, contact an Atlanta brain injury attorney immediately. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.