Q: My 7-year-old son likes to swallow his bubblegum. I’ve heard that
it will stay in his stomach forever. True?
A: This old wives’ tale is very popular on the playground, but it’s
"It is true that most of the components of bubblegum are not found in
nature," says Robynne Chutkan, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor
of medicine at Georgetown University. "And as such we don’t have the enzymes to
break them down. But eventually gum does get through the intestine...
Although it isn't normal to have lead in your body, a small amount is
present in most people. Environmental laws have reduced lead exposure in the
United States, but it is still a health risk, especially for young
What causes lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning is
usually caused by months or years of exposure to small amounts of lead at home,
work, or day care. It can also happen very quickly with exposure to a large amount of lead. Many things can contain or be contaminated with lead: paint, air, water, soil, food, and manufactured goods.
The most common source of lead exposure for children is
lead-based paint and the dust and soil that are
contaminated by it. This can be a problem in older homes and buildings.
most often exposed to lead at work or while doing hobbies that involve lead.
Who is at highest risk of lead poisoning?
poisoning can occur at any age, but children are most likely to be affected by high lead levels. Children at highest risk include
Live in or regularly visit homes or buildings built before 1978. These buildings may have lead-based paint. The risk is even higher in buildings built before 1950, when lead-based paint was more commonly used.
Are immigrants, refugees, or adoptees from other
countries.1 They may have been exposed to higher lead levels in these countries.
Are 6 years old or younger. Young children are at higher risk because:
They often put their hands and objects in
They sometimes swallow nonfood items.
Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate.
Their brains are developing quickly.
Others at risk for lead poisoning include people who:
Drink water that flows through
pipes that were soldered with lead.
Work with lead either in their
job or as a hobby (for example, metal smelters, pottery makers, and stained
Eat food from cans made with lead solder. These types of cans aren't made in the United States.
Cook or store food in ceramic containers. Some ceramic glaze
contains lead that may not have been properly fired or cured.
Eat or breathe traditional or folk remedies that contain lead, such as some
herbs and vitamins from other countries.
Live in communities
with a lot of industrial pollution.