Why Metal Detectorists Need to Be Cautious Handling Lead and How Lead Exposure Harms You

Metal Detecting Lead Fishing Weights

A Little Lead Never Hurts Anyone — or Does It? Exposure Harms You 

As a beach and water metal detectorist, you will be exposed to lead when you find lead fishing weights also known as sinkers. Handling them improperly can result in elevated lead levels. 

The absorption of lead into your body will affect your health. Lead is stored in the blood, liver, kidney, and bones. Frequent exposure to lead, particularly at high levels, can harm the nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems, the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the body’s ability to make blood. 

When the nervous system is affected by lead exposure, you might become irritable, exhibit aggressive behavior, be depressed, have a loss of sensation in your fingers and face, or weakness in the fingers, wrists, and ankles. You might also experience headaches, lose sexual function and become impotent. Other symptoms of exposure to high lead levels may include loss of appetite, joint pain, and changes in sleep patterns. 

Lead exposure affects men causing reduced sexual function and impotence if lead levels reach high enough concentrations. Lead also can alter the structure of sperm cells potentially causing birth defects.

Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to lead exposure due to metabolic changes caused by the pregnancy. Lead passes through the placenta to the fetus potentially causing miscarriages and birth defects.

Adults absorb about 20 percent of the lead they ingest; children absorb about 70 percent of the lead they ingest. Exposing a child to lead may result in slow learning, slow growth, hearing loss, and behavioral problems.

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling lead sinkers or cleaning out your metal detecting find’s pouch or anywhere they were stored. Never let children play with them, children are especially vulnerable to lead because their bodies are not able to eliminate the lead they absorb. 

How Do I Know If I Have Lead in My Body? Have Your Blood Tested

You can have lead poisoning and not have any symptoms. Contact your health care provider or local health department to get your blood tested. Your doctor can take a blood sample and test for lead. These tests give results in micrograms per deciliter of blood. They are a simple and inexpensive way for individuals to know if the precautions they are taking to keep their lead exposure down are working

Enjoy metal detecting, and handle lead carefully. 

EPA – The United States Environmental Protection Agency

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