Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems. Children are more at risk for lead poisoning because their smaller bodies are in a continuous state of growth and development. Also, lead is absorbed at a faster rate in children compared with adults, and causes more physical harm to children than to older people. The classic signs and symptoms in children are loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, constipation, low blood counts, kidney problems, irritability, lethargy, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Slow development of normal childhood behaviors, such as talking and use of words, and permanent mental retardation are commonly seen as well.
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While lead is usually only added to plastics in small amounts, no lead level is safe for children. Exposure to even low levels of lead has been associated with behavioral problems and decreased intelligence in children. Once higher levels of lead exposure are achieved, children may exhibit gastrointestinal-related symptoms, and severe lead poisoning may be associated with neurological symptoms.