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Toxin Case: Lead (Pb) sample essay

Lead (Pb) is a ductile metal, making it available in various forms, such as foil, sheet, wire, etc. It is also readily found in such items as “paint, household dust, bare soil, air, drinking water, food, ceramics, home remedies, hair dyes and other cosmetics,” according to the National Safety Council (Lead Poisoning, n.d.).

According to Konopka (n.d.), once inside the body, it adheres itself to red blood cells, riding along as the RBCs do the rounds. The body mistakes lead for calcium (as they look almost alike), and so the body allows it to take the routes calcium takes. This explains the accumulation of lead in teeth and bones, as well as neurological disorders (as calcium plays an important role in neuro-transmission).

Lead’s toxic effect is cumulative, taking years for lead poisoning to surface. When it does surface, it manifests in various health disorders: anemia, sterility, kidney diseases, etc. It is also blamed for causing impaired mental development in children (University of Wisconsin Steven’s Point, n.d.).

It detrimentally affects animals too. Some die, and elevated lead levels were located in their hair and skin (Levine, Moore, McLaren, Barthel, & Landrigan, 1976). And since lead does not go away, when other animals consume the poisoned ones, they acquire lead as well.

In an effort to reduce the presence of lead, the Clean Air Act of 1970 was introduced after Clair Patterson, an activist-scientist knowledgeable on the effects of lead, campaigned against usage of lead in consumer products (Bryson, 2003). Today, the United States Environmental Protection Agency heads the Lead Awareness program. According to its website (n.d.), its concerns include public education of lead poisoning, phasing out of products with lead, and identification and treatment of affected children.

References

Bryson, B. 2003. A short history of nearly everything. USA: Random House.

Environmental Protection Agency. No date. Lead in paint, dust, and soil. Retrieved

March 3, 2008 from http://www.epa.gov/lead.

Konopka A. No date. The secret life of lead. Retrieved March 3, 2008 from

http://www.loe.org/series/lead2003.

Levine, Moore, McLaren, Barthel, & Landrigan. (1976 June). Occupational lead

poisoning, animal deaths, and environmental contamination at a scrap smelter. American Journal of Public Health. Retrieved March 3, 2008 from http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=7118318.

National Safety Council. No date. Lead poisoning. Retrieved March 3, 2008 from

http://www.nsc.org/library/facts/lead.htm.

University of Wisconsin Steven’s Point. No date. Lead in the environment. Retrieved

March 3, 2008 from http://www.uwsp.edu/geo/courses/geog100/Lead-InEnv.htm.

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