Poisoning by accumulation of lead in the body. Large doses cause gastroenteritis in adults and brain disorders in children. Anemia, constipation and abdominal spasm, confusion, a progressive paralysis, and sometimes brain cancer result from chronic exposure. Children are particularly susceptible to nerve and brain damage; sensitive tests show that even low levels of lead can harm children and are linked to behavioral problems. Sources in the home include lead-based paint, lead drinking-water pipes, and lead-glazed tableware. Babies, who put things in their mouths, are at highest risk. Working where lead is used and exposure to some insecticides are other risk factors. The U.S. phaseout of lead in gasoline was completed in 1996; similar bans are being implemented worldwide. Treatment involves giving antidotes that bind (see chelate) the lead in the tissues.
Learn more about lead poisoning with a free trial on Britannica.com.