A Horrible Plumbummer
Hiya! We all know that lead (plumbum or Pb for short) is quite dodgy when it comes to our health. But why? Why is it such rubbish for us?
First, let's talk about metals.
No, not that.
No, no. Definitely not.
Metals are materials that are usually hard, shiny, and allow heat and electricity to flow through them. They can be pressed, twisted, and even fused together into all different shapes. Some metals are good for the body. If you check out the nutrition facts on a bottle of vitamins, you’ll see a list of some metals (🤘); sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc. These little fellas help speed up chemical reactions in your body. Magnesium, for instance, helps with everything from keeping the heart rhythm steady to strengthening bones.
But lead, lead is a big ol’ bummer. When it gets into your body, it wants to join the party, but often takes the place of essential metals. And because it has no function, it hinders the body from doing its job. So all of those awesome functions that sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium do are replaced with lead, which hurts the body. Children are especially at risk because, let’s be honest, they like to eat anything they find. Their bodies are still developing, so exposure to lead could impact their various organs and keep them from growing properly. Additionally, both children and pregnant women absorb lead more efficiently, heightening the chances of complications during pregnancy, as well.
How does lead get into the body? It can happen through various routes. Back in the day, lead was in paint, gasoline, and even cosmetics. Remnants may still be lying around and can resurface in the soil, dust, or in older products and make their way into the body through inhalation or ingestion. More recently, places like Flint, Newark, and others around the country have had issues with lead contamination from pipes. When more acidic water enters into older pipes, the water can corrode the piping system and carry lead into the tap. Unfortunately, symptoms of lead poisoning in children (abdominal pain, vomiting, irritability) can often be attributed to other ailments, causing bigger learning and behavioral developmental problems later.
In the US, you can check to see your risk of exposure here. If you can’t find information about your city, check out your local water and sewage board to find out if there are any risks in your area. Also, running your tap with cold water for 30 seconds or more before using it can help reduce the risk of lead exposure. Click here and here for more tips on how to reduce your risk.
Check it out, be safe, and make sure to get the lead out!