JUN 09, 2017 11:44 AM PDT

The Neurotoxic Effects of Lead

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In the search for the most dazzling white pigments, the ancient Greeks stumbled on to a lead - a heavy metal that provided striking density and opacity. Despite serious health risks associations with lead paint exposure, use of lead white pervaded until well into the 19th century. Painters who were exposed to lead paint and powder experienced telltale signs of lead poisoning, which was then called "painter's colic." These symptoms included palsies, melancholies, and coughing, which worsened over time.

Yet, lead was not banned from paint until the 1970s. By this time, it was apparent that lead had serious toxic side effects in the human body. In particular, the brain is sensitive to lead, and exposure can cause lower IQ and learning disabilities. Researchers think lead blocks brain receptors that are important for neuronal growth and plasticity. Furthermore, lead can mimic and inhibit the actions of calcium, which causes toxicities in many organ systems. Watch the video to learn more about how lead affects the brain and the body.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 12, 2018
Health & Medicine
SEP 12, 2018
Before You Tear the Moldy Portion of Your Bread Off and Call it Good... Watch This
While most people cringe at the thought of a moldy piece of bread lurking in their refrigerator, there exist bolder people who will gladly tear the moldy b...
SEP 20, 2018
Videos
SEP 20, 2018
Is height all genetics?
For those of us who are more, ahem, vertically challenged, shall we say, it's likely that you've wondered what is responsible for your height (or l...
SEP 20, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
SEP 20, 2018
Defining the "Colors" of Antimatter
Atoms of regular matters, such as hydrogen, can emit a distinct spectrum of lights when their electrons get excited and move between two different ene...
SEP 24, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 24, 2018
Here's Why Goat Eyes Look Weird
Taking a closer look at a goat’s eyeball, you might notice that their pupils are elongated from side-to-side rather than round like a human’s;...
OCT 06, 2018
Videos
OCT 06, 2018
Learning More About the Genetics of Depression
Volunteers in the UK are participating in the largest study on the biological causes of depression that has ever been conducted....
OCT 08, 2018
Technology
OCT 08, 2018
The SolarFlower is a Promising New Take on Solar Energy
Solar energy is a clean and renewable energy source with promising applications in the near future as solar panel technology matures. SmartFlower is an int...
Loading Comments...