The water toxicity issues that occurred in Flint, MI have raised the awareness of lead poisoning once again. Some may be wondering if a lead poisoning blood test may be necessary to determine if there has been a personal exposure. According to the CDC, the recommended threshold for lead in the blood is 5 mcg/dL, which means up to 450,000 children may have higher blood levels than recommended.
Lead is present in small levels naturally in most environments. It also used to be used in water pipes, canned goods, household paint, and farmers even used it in their fertilizer. Although these common uses for lead have been made illegal, more than 100 different industries still regularly use lead. What makes lead dangerous is that almost all of it is stored in the bones.
When To Ask About a Lead Poisoning Blood Test
Lead poisoning can affect any part of the body, but when it affects the central nervous system or the kidneys, the most dangerous health conditions may develop. This can lead to learning difficulties in children, behavioral problems, abdominal pain, ongoing fatigue, headaches, seizures, and in severe cases it can even lead to death.
About 24 million homes in the US are believed to have leaded paint or other lead contaminants in them. Children under the age of 6 are at the most risk for lead exposure and therefore benefit the most from having a lead poisoning blood test.
For adults, anyone who works in construction, welding, smelting, recycling, or auto mechanics should consider having a periodic lead poisoning blood test to monitor their health. Certain hobbies, such as fishing, shooting, pottery, stained glass, or painting may also have an increased risk of lead exposure. Certain homeopathic health remedies may also have a higher risk of containing lead, especially if they originate from the developing world.
How To Treat Lead Poisoning
The best way to treat lead poisoning is to avoid any exposure to lead. In the US, lead has been eliminated from gasoline, house paint, plumbing, and many other products, so elevated levels of lead in the blood are less common than in years past. Because of the Flint water issue, however, there can be pockets of lead exposure of which we are not aware, so asking about a lead poisoning blood test if you are experiencing unusual confusion, nerve issues, or weight loss may be beneficial.
If lead levels are higher than 5 mcg/dL in the blood test results, but are lower than 25 mcg/dL, then a medical provider will recommend that all potential sources of lead be removed from the individual’s living environment. Contractors which specialize in lead location will inspect a home or a place of business and then remove any items that may contain lead or lead dust, including paint.
Some people may be tempted to remove these items on their own, but this may only increase the amount of exposure that is received.
When the lead poisoning blood test results indicate a level of 25 mcg/dL or higher, then chelation therapy may be recommended. Using a drug called Succimer, the lead will bind to the medication and then be removed through the urine. Should lead levels be higher than 45 mcg/dL, the chelation process will likely occur in a hospital setting. Any results that are 70 mcg/dL or higher is considered to be a medical emergency and may include the administration of EDTA.
Adults and Lead Poisoning Thresholds
Adults can withstand an occupational level of lead exposure up to a blood test result of 40 mcg/dL. At that point, OSHA requirements dictate that workers be transferred to a low-lead exposure job until their lead levels drop to healthier levels. Chelation is considered on a patient-by-patient basis and is usually only recommended if there are bothersome symptoms that are interfering with a person’s lifestyle.
If a group of people at the same job site, neighborhood, or community as was discovered in Flint, then changes to the environment may be necessary. Abatement will be necessary in a group exposure, which may mean moving to a new job site, having a contractor remove lead from a neighborhood area home-by-home, or changing a water supply back to its original source.
The CDC offers a 24 hour hotline for emergencies at (770) 488-7100 and this will get you in touch with local and state health resources if you have a high lead poisoning blood test result. Otherwise more information is also available through the National Center for Environmental Health.