Understanding The Neurotoxicity of Lead: A Path to a Healthier Brain
by Pamela Costello MD PC
Observe with concern how long a useful truth may be known and exist before it’s generally received and acted upon. (Translated from old English.) Benjamin Franklin, 1786
Benjamin Franklin was aware of lead poisoning, as were the ancient Romans, Phoenicians, and Greeks. In fact, there exists a multitude of historical references to lead neurotoxicity throughout the ages. Lead poisoning is probably one of the most significant of the known toxic hazards incident to the development of our civilization.
Speed up to the 20th century. Our medical and scientific literature is replete with research addressing the known risks of environmental exposure to lead, as well as the toxic effects of lead on our nervous systems. Furthermore, our legal system includes strict laws mandating new controls of lead exposure. Although these more current efforts are noble, there still exists a general lack of awareness of the sources of lead, the increasing levels of toxic lead exposure, and it’s deleterious effects on our bodies. My ongoing focus as an environmental, holistic clinician is to increase awareness of such neurotoxins and their adverse influence on our nervous systems, as well as offer safe and effective treatment options, along with prevention guidelines to minimize ongoing exposures.
Both acute and chronic lead poisoning through environmental exposure pose an increasing health concern. Exposure to lead can be through lead based paint, pigments (in pottery and cosmetics/hair dyes), plumbing, drinking water, brass, bronze, mining, roofing materials, caulking, petroleum by-products, ceramics, photography, solder, lead crystal, pesticides and fertilizers, etc. Although lead has been removed from some forms of paints and automotive gasoline in the United States, it still remains one of the primary environmental hazards facing humans today.
Much of the public continues to live their lives unaware of the dangers to the nervous system of this poison. Similar to mercury poisoning, environmental lead exposure has both acute and long-term effects on the developing and mature nervous systems, including Autism, developmental delay, and behavioral disorders such as ADHD. In adults, we see an increased incidence of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases such as MS, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, brain fog/cognitive difficulties, neuropathies, tinnitus, etc. Research reveals that people who have worked in jobs with high levels of lead exposure are up to 3-4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.
As our ingestion, inhalation, and skin exposure to lead increases, so does the amount of lead trapped in our bodies and our nervous systems. Such high levels readily surpass our natural abilities to clear these toxins, thus increasing the incidence of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases to which lead contributes, from tinnitus and neuropathy to Alzheimer’s disease. Lead exposure for children includes exposure in the womb, where the developing fetus extracts lead from the mother’s stores, incorporating it into it’s developing skeletal and nervous systems. This initial exposure becomes cumulative with the ensuing life-long exposure to the increasing levels of lead in our air, water, and soil.
The good news is that there exist objective, simple methods of determining your lead burden and potential areas of past and ongoing exposures, as well as safe and effective measures to detoxify the lead in your nervous system. In doing so, you identify and minimize a known neurotoxin, thereby contributing to your brain and body’s highest health.