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Where does lead come from?

Although the most common sources of lead poisoning are lead-based paint and auto emissions, the toxic metal can also enter drinking water from lead-based plumbing, mining and industrial sites. The dust can be inhaled through the air or enter the soil, where it can be swallowed by mud-loving children, tracked indoors on dirty boots or enter root vegetables, albeit in very small amounts. It can be absorbed into the body through the lungs, digestive tract or even skin. It travels first to the body's soft tissue and organs, but after several weeks moves into bones and teeth, where it can stay for decades or re-enter blood and organs while breastfeeding, pregnant, breaking a bone or aging.

Who is at risk?

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Although adults can suffer the effects of lead poisoning, children are most at risk, not only because they are more likely to put their hands in their mouths, but also because their growing bodies absorb more lead and their young nervous systems are more vulnerable.

How does it affect people?

In young children, if not detected quickly, lead can cause headaches, behaviour and learning problems, slowed growth and hearing difficulties, and damage the brain and nervous system.

In adults, lead poisoning can cause high blood pressure and hypertension, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, muscle and joint pain and reproductive problems in both men and women.

What should people do about it?

Newfoundland's Health Ministry is recommending Buchans residents refrain from walking around in their houses in shoes that have been in contact with soil on their property; ensure children aged 2 to 6 wash their hands after playing with soil; mop floors, wipe windows and vacuum carpets regularly.

The U.S.-based Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease also notes that pets can bring lead into a house in dust form.

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Source: Newfoundland Department of Health and Community Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease

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