Developmental delays, anemia and irreversible neurological and kidney damage are a few of the health problems for children exposed to high levels of lead and heavy metals associated with some Superfund sites.
Lead poisoning is “insidious in nature,” because people tend to experience the symptoms for a long time without seeking help, said Scott Schaeffer, assistant director of the Oklahoma Poison Control Center.
“The neurological effects we worry about more with the kids because of their rapidly-developing nervous system,” he said. “If it goes untreated, it can be irreversible.”
Weight loss, lack of appetite, vomiting and upset stomach are all chronic effects of lead poisoning, symptomatic of many other diseases for which lead poisoning is often misdiagnosed.
“The symptoms of ADHD and the symptoms of the effects of lead, there's a lot of overlap there, there's a lot of similarity,” said Dr. Shirley Chesnut, a family physician in Miami, OK.
Chesnut first noticed neurological damage among children from Picher and Cardin, which is part of the Tar Creek Superfund site, in the early 1990s when she treated them for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.