Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lead Levels

Tuesday was Jack's birthday (Yeah--happy birthday, boy!) I'll post about that event, and the subsequent, incessant, cutting and pounding (thanks, Mom) later. For now, a few lines about what's been eating at me--that is the trip to the pediatrician. I could complain about the shortage of HIB vaccine or Jack's mysterious spreading rash which the doctor proclaimed was "contact dermatitis" (my ass). Or I could say how weird it is that Jack's head size didn't change at all, and sometimes increases or even decreases in size depending on who the nurse is. I could also rave about how well Jackson takes his pricks, staring stoically and in silence at the nurse. These topics are all of passing interest.

The thing that's eating at me is the lead test, taken by capillary. By way of background, it has been determined that there is no safe level of lead. The Dept of Health gets involved when the level is > 10 micrograms/deciliter, serious action with chelation and home remediation starts at around 50 micrograms/deciliter. Jackson's lead levels were below these thresholds at 5 micrograms/deciliter. By official lead accounting, its normal and nothing to be alarmed about. Except that the level should be nothing, zip, zero, undetectable. There are studies that show a linear relationship between even low lead levels of lead and IQ impact. 10 micrograms/deciliter has an impact of -7 IQ points. (There go the "trivial" few IQ points I pumped so much precious, time consuming, stressful breast milk to give my child.)

Historically speaking, lead levels of kids my age (born 1976-1980) had a mean value of 15 micrograms/deciliter. After lead paint was banned in 1978, the levels have gone down, and today's kids have a mean value of 2.7 micrograms/deciliter. Jackson's level is twice that.

We live in a brand new house (see previous post), with clean well water running through new lead free pipes. We don't use brightly colored foreign stoneware (as far as it can be avoided). We don't have antique tin toys or let Jackson play with the ammunition. So, where is the contamination coming from? I've been through latest list of lead based toy recalls. Nothing we own is on the list, but there are certainly similar items. It could be anything. Is it the painted spots on his bath toys? The zippers on his pants? The vinyl housed flashing light of his spider man jacket? How about his toy boxes? Or new froggy boots that he's worn all day every day since Easter? Maybe a contaminant in his daily multivitamin. Is it our dishes? They're purchased in a US big box store and light in color (typically reds are more likely to be lead based glazes). We only have 1 vinyl mini blind in the house, but that could be the source.

Point is, there is no way of knowing where the lead is coming from. This is a consequence of globalization and failure to enforce regulations. Even buying all of our consumer goods from reputable US made sources (as if that were possible) wouldn't guarantee safety, since they could just as easily get a batch of contaminated raw materials to work with.

In our home, we go through considerable effort to avoid contaminations. We buy US goods where practical, spend extra on local-ish free range meats and organic vegetables, produce our own eggs, limit high sugar content foods (corn syrup has a 20% contamination with mercury rate, by the way), eschew manufactured food items (like those pedialyte drinks they're pushing these days). We built a new house rather than remodel an old one that might be contaminated.
Despite these efforts, we're powerless against things like heavy metal contamination or food poisoning.


  1. Very interesting. I'm not aware whether our kids have had their lead levels tested. Is that something that usually happens at wellness checks?

    I just remembered reading about a family where the daughter had high levels of lead and they found out in was in their deck materials (stain?). Somehow the materials passed "code" even though they were made in the U.S.

    It's frustrating when you do so much in an effort to provide safety and health for yourself and your kids, and you have these results.

  2. I don't think I have ever had my boys checked, I will have to inquire. Very cute house by the way! How did we ever survive as kids?

  3. Wow, that is good information to have. How unsettling! Was this a routine check, or did you have to request it? I think it's good you had it checked...I hope the source can be discovered. Is it the kind of thing that ever leaves your system, or does it stay in your body?

  4. My kids have never been checked for lead. I think it is great that your ped does that for you. I don't even want to know what my kids' levels would be, since our house was built in 1924! I hope you find out what the culprit is
    In the meantime.......

  5. Jason here. One of the few benefits of living in a state in the top three for tax burdens, is state-mandated lead testing. I do think we are over-reacting a little here however. Jack is not walking around in a bubble, and that is the whole point in "safe levels". Pollution, seafood, synthetic chemicals, all contribute to Jack's (and mine and yours) lead levels. Jack is perfect. I'd bet a dollar all of us would have had higher levels when we were his age and we all turned out pretty much great. So what I'm saying is that everyone needs to take a chill!

  6. Cool. (Reading the comment from Jason.) Sometimes the less we know the better???

    I also wanted to say Happy Birthday, Jackson. Will we see pictures from this important day?