Lead Poisoning - Treatment
The first step in treating lead poisoning is to avoid further contact with lead. For adults, this usually means making changes at work or in hobbies. For children, it means finding and removing sources of lead in the home. In most states, the public health department can help inspect the home and find sources of lead.
If the problem is lead paint, a professional with special training should remove it. Home owners should not try to do this job themselves. Scraping or sanding lead paint creates large amounts of dust that can poison people in the home. The dust can stay around long after the work is completed. People living in the home should leave until the cleanup has been finished by the professional.
If blood levels of lead are high, the doctor may also prescribe chelation (pronounced kee-LAY-shun) therapy. The word "chelation" comes from the Greek word for "claw." Chemicals used in chelation therapy take hold of lead in the bloodstream, like a crab grabs an object with its claw. The lead can then be washed out of the blood.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three chemicals for use in chelation therapy. Edetate calcium disodium (EDTA calcium) and dimercaprol (BAL; pronounced die-muhr-KAP-rol) are usually injected with a shot. Or they can be added directly to the bloodstream with an intravenous (into the vein) line. Succimer (trade name Chemet) can be taken in pill form.
No forms of alternative treatment have proved effective in treating lead poisoning. Increasing the amount of calcium, zinc, iron, and protein in the
diet may be of some help. They tend to reduce the amount of lead taken into the bloodstream. Some practitioners believe that nutritional, herbal, and homeopathic medicines can help the body recover from lead poisoning after the source of lead has been found and eliminated.