Lead Toxicity

Your Path

  • Lead Toxicity


  • Typically chronic lead ingestion - which is usually unintentional (e.g. ingesting paint chips, incorporated into other substances and unknowingly ingested)
  • Can also occur if significant amount ingested acutely

Risk Factors

  • Pica - consumption of lead containing soil, paint (related to OCD, iron deficiency, other)
  • Working with/around/stripping lead based paints
  • Folks or herbal remedies; Aryuvedic medicine
  • Food stored in lead lined containers
  • Lead bullets (retained fragments, chronic inhalation @ firing range)
  • Work: using lead based glazes, welding/cutting lead paint covered materials, glassblowing w/leaded glass, other
  • Sometimes mixed w/substances of abuse (e.g. heroin)


  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Rarely seizures
  • Can be acute, subacute or chronic
  • Colicky abdominal pain that's otherwise unexplained
  • Fatigue from anemia
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Confusion and cognitive problems, which can become permanent
  • Altered sense of tasted
  • Peripheral motor and sensory neuropathy

Physical Exam Findings

  • Sometimes confusion
  • Sometimes peripheral motor neuropathy
  • Sometimes pallor (anemia)
  • Sometimes bluish discoloration at gingival margin (called a "lead line")