Question about Heavy Metals

Scott Sudweeks sudweeks at mindspring.com
Sat Mar 13 22:04:33 EST 1999

>On Fri, 5 Mar 1999 19:54:54 +0900, "Pepero" <gildongh at yahoo.com>
>wrote: Why are heavy metals such as lead harmful to humans?


Depending on the metal, the level and duration of exposure and how old and
sensitive the person is who is exposed there are a wide range of toxic
effects, including both cancer and non-cancer endpoints.

Since you asked about lead, this metal can affect almost every organ and
system in your body. The most sensitive is the central nervous system,
particularly in children. Lead also damages kidneys and the immune system.
The effects are the same whether it is breathed or swallowed.

Exposure to lead is more dangerous for young and unborn children. Unborn
children can be exposed to lead through their mothers. Harmful effects
include premature births, smaller babies, decreased mental ability in the
infant, learning difficulties, and reduced growth in young children. These
effects are more common after exposure to high levels of lead.

In adults, lead may decrease reaction time, cause weakness in fingers,
wrists, or ankles, and possibly affect the memory. Lead may cause anemia, a
disorder of the blood. It can cause abortion and damage the male
reproductive system. The connection between these effects and exposure to
low levels of lead is uncertain though.

For more information and some useful fact sheets, visit the Web site of the
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at
Check out the TOXFAQs section.

Scott Sudweeks

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