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What It's Like to Die from Lead Poisoning

Updated March 14, 2019 56.1k views13 items

Lead poisoning may sound frightening, and for good reason - it is. This dangerous process is gradual and symptoms can be painful, life-altering, and even fatal. While passing from such a condition is fairly uncommon, it is known to happen. So how does this happen in the first place? Historically, people have gotten lead into their systems through the soil, food, and even tableware. For a long time, lead was used to make plates and cups and was, in turn, ingested whenever an unwitting victim sat down for a meal.

Nowadays, it is a lot more difficult to suffer from over-exposure to lead, as the use of it in everyday items is heavily regulated. Still, it does happen, and sometimes with dire consequences. Read on to learn what exactly this agonizing process entails (and subsequently, how to avoid it).

  • The Process Happens Slowly Over Time

    Photo: Rlbberlin / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Lead can be found in many objects and substances, though recent regulations prohibit its inclusion in newer everyday items. No one eats or drinks from lead tableware anymore and most paints are no longer lead-based. With that being said, lead still exists. It can show up in reservoirs, in art supplies, and even in the dust of old homes and buildings. In order to achieve levels of over-exposure, the lead must be ingested, so touching your mouth after touching an item containing lead or eating a lead-based item will result in the toxic substance entering the body.

    Don't worry about what could happen if you pass by an art studio - one dose of the stuff usually isn't enough to do harm. It must be continuously ingested over a long period of time, causing it to build up in the body. As it accumulates, symptoms will gradually become worse. If left untreated, the symptoms will turn from unnoticeable to harmful, or even worse.

  • Your Stomach Will Start Complaining

    Because lead was historically ingested, it makes sense that one of the first things to be impacted is the stomach. This process often begins with seemingly minor stomach pain. As time goes on and more lead is ingested, other symptoms may present themselves, such as constipation, nausea, and horrible abdominal cramps that may eventually lead to vomiting.

    These stomach conditions might be awful to endure, but they may not be considered a sign of anything drastic - after all, these symptoms could be tied to any number of illnesses, and lead poisoning is not one that is immediately thought of in the 21st century. Unfortunately, if the cause of your pain isn't properly identified, the toxic components will begin to harm vital organs, possibly causing permanent, irreparable damage.

  • You Won't Be Able To Eat

    Photo: Gabriel Metsu / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    As one's health continues to decline, symptoms relating to the stomach are going to become more than just a little annoying. Sufferers may find a complete lack of appetite caused by the pain or illness consuming food brings. That leads to weight loss, irritability, and even sleep deprivation due to the pain or discomfort.

    This is particularly bad for children because it can stunt their growth and cause issues with their performance in school. In fact, over-exposure hits kids the hardest in just about every way: their bodies absorb lead much more easily than those who are older.

  • You Will Become Irritable

    Photo: AndreasPraefcke / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Not eating, feeling stomach pain, and not getting good sleep would make just about anyone grumpy, but lead poisoning can change a sufferer's personality in other ways as well. The victim may become more irritable and aggressive, exhibiting verbally or physically harsh outbursts that are out of character. Mood swings and depression are also common symptoms. These personality changes may be so sudden that friends and family will take notice of how much the sufferer starts behaving like a completely different person.

    These changes occur because, as lead continues to accumulate, it negatively impacts the nervous system and brain. As levels build up, lead circulates through the various body systems in increasingly more dangerous quantities, creating blockages or damaging parts of vital organs. Changes in mood and behavior are a sign that the brain is lead's most recent victim.