What is Lead?
Lead is a naturally-occurring element and industrially-produced metal that is highly toxic to children. It used to be used in all sorts of places – paint, petrol, pipes, ceramics and solder. Although it has been largely phased out it is still found in lipstick, and is still emitted from industrial sites such as mines and smelting plants.
There is NO safe level of lead in the body for children.
Lead is toxic to humans, causing numerous health effects.
How do children get lead toxicity?
Lead is still commonly found in some children’s toys, notably those from China. And because children put things in their mouths, they are directly ingesting the lead.
If you live in a high risk area of Australia, with a history of mining or smelting, there may be lead in your water or in the soil where you grow your veggies.
Lead can even be found in the water supply, as a result of ground water contamination or due to lead leaching from pipes
How do you test for lead toxicity?
We use hair analysis as the most reliable way to check for lead toxicity. Blood lead levels are an indicator mainly of recent or current lead exposure, not of the total body burden. Hair analysis looks at the long term history of lead exposure
Signs and symptoms of lead toxicity
At high level exposure, lead poisoning can lead to seizures, vomiting, memory loss, and even death.
The contribution of lead toxicity to children’s IQ, ADHD, behavioural problems, and physical health is of great concern.
Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body, and in children it can cause:
- Behaviour and learning problems
- Lower IQ and Hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing Problems
Who’s at risk from lead toxicity?
Children under the age of 6 are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects from lead, and exposure can affect a child’s mental and physical development.
Lead is dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead compared to adults, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed because they often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.
Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead. They may inhale lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil. They may be exposed through playing with very old toys coated in lead paint.
Children who are deficient in iron are also more likely to have pica (eating non-food items), and therefore eat things that might contain lead.
Adults may be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead. They may breathe in lead dust by spending time in areas where lead-based paint is deteriorating. Renovations or repair work that disturbs painted surfaces in old homes (built before 1970) is also risky. People who work in mining will be exposed to lead.
A pregnant woman’s exposure to lead from these sources is of particular concern because it can result in exposure to the developing baby.
What are the health effects of lead toxicity?
Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium.
During pregnancy, lead is released from the mother’s bones along with calcium and can pass from the mother exposing the fetus or the breastfeeding infant to lead.
This can result in serious effects to the developing fetus and infant:
- Causing the baby to be born premature or too small;
- Harming the baby’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system;
- Increasing the likelihood of learning or behavioural problems
- Putting the mother at risk of miscarriage.
What can you do to lower your chances of Lead Exposure?
- Frequently wash children’s hands, bottles and toys. Teach children to wipe and remove their shoes and wash hands after playing outdoors.
- Make sure your pets are kept clean and not a source of soil or dust in the home.
- Minimise lead dust in the home by mopping floors and stairs. Clean your window sills to reduce dust.
- Keep an eye on recalls of imported toys which have been found to contain lead.
- Use only cold filtered water to prepare food and drinks (not from the hot tap).
- If you drink rainwater, test it. Make sure lead from the roof is not ending up in your water.
- House renovation: take care if renovating a house built before 1970, as the paint that you are exposing will contain lead.
- Resist the urge to nest and redecorate when pregnant, to make sure you aren’t getting exposed to lead dust from paint.
- Old paint: take a look in grandparents homes or at daycare. Ensure your child does not have access to peeling or deteriorating paint. Check all chewable surfaces that could be painted with lead based paint, such as old cots or railings.
- Soil and dirt: get your garden soil tested to see if it contains high levels of lead. If it does, keep your child away from bare dirt, and only grow veggies in raised garden beds.
Diverse whole foods diet:
- A healthy and varied diet can prevent potential lead exposure as children with nutrient deficiencies in iron, calcium, and vitamin C are more susceptible to harm from lead exposure.
- Iron-sufficient diets discourage the absorption of lead, and calcium competes with lead to inhibit its absorption. Vitamin C may also increase lead excretion by the kidneys.
How do we help children affected by lead toxicity?
Firstly, we test.
I can’t think of single client who came to us who had already been assessed for lead toxicity.
They may have had learning difficulties, ADHD or chronic constipation or iron deficient anemia. And nobody checked for lead.
One of the most safe and effective way to help children with lead toxicity is to correct their mineral imbalances including iron deficiency. There are minerals that will likely be deficient in children with lead toxicity, but doing a hair tissue mineral analysis tells us exactly how to structure a treatment plan.
We also make sure that a child’s paths of excretion are open, most importantly we make sure they are pooping once or twice per day, otherwise they will just keep reabsorbing the lead. We do this through diet and lifestyle changes, prebiotics and probiotics. It’s a viscous cycle as the lead toxicity also contributes to constipation.
We use herbs and nutrients to support a child’s liver detoxification, and we prescribe nutrients to assist with mobilising the lead.
Some children have specific SNPs (single nucleotide polypmorphisms) which make it more difficult for them to methylate and clear substances like lead from their body, even if they are not exposed to much. We also help them mehtylate better.
What do I my child is affected by lead toxicity?
A hair tissue mineral analysis is a non-invasive way to determine if your child has higher than normal levels of lead in their body.
If you are worried your child has had an acute exposure to lead / lead poisoning, see your doctor.
An association between lead, behavioural problems and ADHD has been established in numerous studies, confirming that even low levels of lead raise the risk.
While lead is not the only cause of ADHD, it appears to be a contributor, even at current typical exposure levels.
Some children may be more susceptible because of genotype, poor diet, or prior/concurrent adversity.
If you want some advice on your child’s behavioural issues, or you want to get them tested for lead, make an appointment with me using this link.