Depending on how much lead a child is exposed to, the health effects can be severe and long lasting. These harmful effects can be avoided if proper care is taken to eliminate lead exposure. It’s up to New Jersey school officials to take steps to prevent harm to students, including testing drinking water for lead and, if it’s found, to do what’s necessary to make the water safe.
Lead is a metal that naturally occurs in the earth’s crust. The use of lead dates back centuries, and its use has resulted in extensive environmental pollution and serious public health problems in many parts of the world.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Lead affects many parts of the body and is particularly harmful to young children.
- Childhood lead exposure contributes to about 600,000 new cases of intellectual disabilities in children, worldwide, every year.
- Lead exposure may account for 143,000 deaths per year worldwide, with most of those deaths occurring in developing countries.
- If lead is breathed in or ingested, it’s absorbed in the brain, liver, kidney and bones. Lead is stored in the body in teeth and bones. Exposure is normally detected and measured through blood tests.
- There is no known safe level of lead exposure, but it is known that as lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increases.
- Drinking water delivered through lead pipes or pipes joined with lead solder may contain lead.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the harm lead can cause. They may suffer profound, permanent health effects, impacting the development of the brain and nervous system. At high exposure levels, lead poisons the brain and central nervous system and can cause coma, convulsions and even death.
At lower exposure levels, there may be no obvious symptoms, but multiple body systems can be injured.
- Lead affects children’s brain development, causing lowered intelligence quotient (IQ) levels, behavioral changes (short attention span and increased antisocial behavior) and reduced educational attainment. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.
- Lead in the body can cause anemia, hypertension, kidney problems and can be toxic to the reproductive organs and immune systems.
If a woman has been exposed to enough lead, it will accumulate in her bones (with calcium). During pregnancy, that lead may be released from her bones as maternal calcium which is used to help form the bones of the fetus, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. This can happen when a pregnant woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead may also cross the placental barrier, exposing the developing fetus to lead and possibly reducing the growth of the fetus and causing premature birth.
If you believe your child has been harmed by high levels of lead in drinking water in New Jersey schools, call the Law Offices of James C. DeZao at (973) 358-6134 or fill out our contact form so we can discuss your child’s situation, how the law may apply and how you can protect your child’s legal rights and possibly seek compensation for your child’s injuries.