Thursday, August 5, 2010

Elevated Lead Levels

Baby E just got her lead levels back and she rated a 7. The "action" level is 10. It is good that she is below the action level, but the CDC says there is no safe level of lead. Apparently there are several studies that show lead levels below 10 cause impairment. I am having trouble finding the text of the studies but the CDC mentions the results as do several newspaper articles and blogs. I have heard that there is a 1-2 drop in IQ correlated to each increase in lead (I do not know if this is accurate or not). The CDC says "There is no evidence of a threshold below which adverse effects are not experienced. Thus, any decision to establish a new level of concern would be arbitrary and provide uncertain benefits." If any of you have links to these articles feel free to send them along.

My Pediatrician does not seem to be very concerned but wants her retested in a few months. He was telling me how high levels were before lead was removed from gasoline. However, after doing my research, I got a second opinion. This second doctor told me she does not accept anything above a 3 for her patients. My current doctor is not alarmist (which I love) and it occurs to me that I misread his calmness for lack of concern. Regardless, I have decided that I need to take action on this.

I am having a very hard time with this. I am trying not to worry but my stomach ties in knots when I think about this. Ella had a seizure earlier this year (common with high fevers but also a sign of lead poisoning) and she couldn't sit through song time at Baby Gym today (which doesn't mean A THING . . . I know that). I just have to keep reminding myself that everything else is normal. She is advanced in most areas and behind in none. This is so frustrating though. I feel helpless. I don't know what is causing it. I feel like I can't fix it. We spend a lot of energy preventing exposure to toxins. We buy local and organic, we make our own cleaning supplies, etc. We have also decided not to worry about every tiny thing and let her experience her environment. But now, I realize something I didn't worry about is making her lead levels high and potentially causing permanent damage. Is it because I let her put things in her mouth? Is it because we spend too much time playing in the dirt? Is it because I give her water instead of just handing her a damn juice box? I hate this.

I also struggle because I worry that I am over-reacting since she isn't at an "actionable" level. But, even the CDC says 10 an arbitrary number. I just want the lead to go away.

What Are the Options in DC?
I called the water company and found out that all homes can have lead tests done on the water once a year for free! This is very exciting and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this. We have our kits set up to test our water tomorrow. However, I am horrified by this article which states that DC and the CDC covered up data which showed that DC water levels were dangerously high. "The nation's premier public health agency knowingly used flawed data to claim that high lead levels in the District's drinking water did not pose a health risk to the public, a congressional investigation has found." This does not effect us but increases our distrust of the system.

I also found out that the Department of Health inspects your home for free with levels over 10. They will do it for levels under 10, but I was told that if they found an issue they would cite me. I would then need to fix the issue in a set amount of time or I would be fined! Instead, they offered me a program that will send someone to my home, test for lead dust in 3 locations, then teach me how to clean lead dust. They are scheduled to come tomorrow.

How Does A Child Get Elevated Lead Levels?

I thought that peeling paint, unfiltered water, and toys from China were the only ways a child could be exposed to lead. We do not give Ella toys that could contain lead, we filter our water, and we thought we had taken care of any peeling paint. Instead, it appears that even freshly painted homes can create lead dust. This dust is apparently sticky and difficult to clean. Little one's like Baby E get it on their hands and toys. When these go in their mouth, they are exposed to lead.

Here is a great summary:

These are the sources of elevated levels that the above site lists:

"House Paints: Prior to 1950, lead-based paint was used on the inside and outside of most homes. It was used to make several colors, including white, and was known to dry to a hard durable surface. Though the use of lead in paint was reduced during the 1960's, it wasn't until 1977 that federal regulations virtually eliminated lead from paint for general use. Homes built prior to 1977 are likely to contain lead-based paint.

Soil: Soil near heavily-used streets and roads may contain lead as a result of past use of lead in gasoline. Lead may also be found in the soil next to houses where the exterior was painted with lead-based paint. Lead buildup in the soil can contribute to high levels of lead in household dust.

Drinking Water: Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of corrosion or the wearing away of materials that are in the water supply system and household plumbing. These materials can include lead-based solder, brass and chrome plated faucets and in some cases, lead pipes that connect to the service line.

Additional Lead Sources: Old toys, some imported toys, lead-glazed and/or lead-painted pottery, leaded crystal, inks, plaster, hobby and sport activities where molten lead is handled (lead sinkers, ammunition, stain glass work, etc.), and clothing contaminated with lead from the workplace are all possible sources of lead."

Ways to Decrease Lead

This is a work in progress for me because I am still learning what to do. Here are the best tips I have received:

1. Filter DC tap water
2. Repair any peeling paint
3. Wash hands before all meals
4. Ensure toys are not lead based
5. Run water for 1-2 minutes before using it
6. Do not use water from the hot water side for cooking

DC city pipes are made of lead in many places. The CDC has found that partially replacing lead pipes actually increases lead levels. Interesting I thought.

I hope that the people who come tomorrow will be able to give me more tips.

1 comment:

  1. Another source of hidden lead is purses! How many children chew on their mom's purse straps :)
    Also, any of the white electronic cords (like ipod type headphones) frequently have high lead. Also, black rubber, like rubber feet on canes, may have high lead. I worked in a industry that would determine which type of rubber something was made of by using a lead test swab.
    You can do your own testing with lead swabs. You can get a pack and keep retesting (one test per minute to give it time to react) and the swab turns pink.
    Here is a link to some testing swabs similar to the ones I used.