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The Deadly Biology of Lead Exposure

Wednesday, May 10th 2023 10:00am 9 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that has been widely used in a variety of industrial applications, including paint, gasoline, and plumbing materials. Although the use of lead in these applications has decreased over the past several decades, it remains a significant environmental and public health concern. In this article, we will explore the biological effects of lead exposure and the mechanisms through which it causes harm to human health.

Lead exposure and health effects

Lead exposure has been linked to a wide range of health effects, including developmental, neurological, and cardiovascular problems. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, as their developing brains and bodies are more susceptible to the toxic effects of lead. Lead exposure in children can lead to cognitive deficits, behavioral problems, and decreased IQ scores (1).

In adults, lead exposure has been associated with an increased risk of hypertension, kidney damage, and reproductive problems. In pregnant women, lead exposure can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and low birth weight infants (2).

Mechanisms of lead toxicity

Lead exerts its toxic effects through a variety of mechanisms. One of the primary mechanisms of lead toxicity is its ability to interfere with calcium signaling in the body. Lead can bind to calcium channels in the cell membrane, disrupting the normal flow of calcium ions into and out of the cell. This disruption can lead to a variety of cellular changes, including altered gene expression and impaired cell growth and differentiation (3).

Lead exposure can also lead to oxidative stress, a condition in which there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the ability of the body to detoxify them. This oxidative stress can lead to damage to proteins, lipids, and DNA in the body, contributing to the development of a wide range of health problems (4).

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