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What Do Doctors Need To Do About Lead?  

fact sheet created 11 October 2006

Lead Poisoning is too often associated with children only

The history of Lead Poisoning has indicated that much focus is placed on case management for people with a HIGH blood lead levels, in which HIGH is classified as a blood lead level over 10 micrograms per decilitre (10 µg/dL), based World Health Organisation’s goal to be less than 10 µg/dL [1].

Focus has also been placed on looking at lead poisoning in children. Doctors still need to ask questions, rather than just look for symptoms. The LEAD Group recommends testing on the basis of a parent’s response to the ‘Is your child safe from lead? PDF’ questionnaire, found on The LEAD Group website.

Many studies have found children with lead poisoning have destructive effects in intellectual, physical and psychological development. Now, however, focus also needs to be placed on monitoring adults.

The new found health effects of low lead levels in adults

Recent studies indicate that even lower blood lead levels, as low as 2 µg/dL, can have catastrophic effects on a person’s health, including early death from heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

One study, conducted by Andy Menke, MPH, of Tulane University School of Public Health in the U.S. found that 408 of the 14,000 participants that were tested and studied over a 12 year period died from a heart attack or stroke. They found that compared with adults with very low levels of lead in their blood, those with blood lead levels of 3.6 to 10 µg/dL of blood were two and half times more likely to die of a heart attack, 89% more likely to die of stroke and 55% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease [2].

Doctors need new Lead Poisoning Practice and Principles

With this research coming to light, looking only for blood lead levels which are over 10 µg/dL is no longer valid. Not only do all blood lead levels that are detected need follow-up, but also more emphasis needs to be placed on prevention of lead exposure.

A worrying belief of doctors is in fact that lead poisoning is no longer a problem, therefore they do not test for lead and do not attribute health conditions to lead poisoning. The overlooking of lead as a major problem in Australian health is highlighted by the absence of national studies of lead in adults and the rescinding of Australia’s Federal Health Policy on lead. Therefore there are no average figures of blood lead levels in adults or policy.

The resulting problem for doctors who are not required to test blood lead levels in patients continuously over a lifespan, is that they cannot easily conclude whether health problems and death have been caused by lead poisoning.

What should Doctors do?

The role of Doctors is important in monitoring and preventing the normally overlooked health problems which can be caused by lead poisoning. The Lead Group is keen for doctors to understand that the majority of their adult patients are at risk of having a blood lead level over 2 µg/dL, due to every adult being alive during the era of leaded petrol. In order to reduce its harm, lead needs to be monitored by doctors in the following ways:

  •  Test the blood lead level of every patient and implement this testing as a standard practice in the patients’ medical check ups.

  • Testing from the age of crawling to the age of 6 every year, as well as regular testing throughout the patient’s life.

  •  Once a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL is found, direct the patient to information that can aid them in identifying sources and reducing exposure


[1] This is based on the US Centers for Disease Control 1991 statement that having a blood lead level below 10 µg/dL is defined as “not lead poisoned.” Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “Preventing Lead Poisoning In Young Children” 1991

[2] Source: WebMD medical News – ‘Lead in Blood: ‘Safe’ Levels Too High?’, by Miranda Hitti, September 18, 2006 

The LEAD Group Inc. Fact Sheet Index

NSW Lead Reference Centre and NSW Government Publications On this site

  1. About the Global Lead Advice and Support Service (GLASS)

  2. Main Sources of Lead

  3. How Would You Know If You or Your Child Was lead poisoned?

  4. Lead aware housekeeping

  5. Ceiling dust & lead poisoning

  6. Is your yard lead safe?

  7. Health Impacts of lead poisoning

  8. Rotary Questionnaire

  9. Lead poisoned Pets and Your Family

  10. Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Factor Questionnaire

  11. Is Your Child Safe From Lead? - What Can You Do About Lead?

  12. Lead in Drinking Water in Australia

  13. Have We Really Resolved The Lead Issue?

  14. The Importance of the Availability of "Spot Tests" for Lead in Paint

  15. Pregnant or Planning a Pregnancy

  16. Breastfeeding and Lead

  17. Lead in breast milk

  18. Beware The Lead In Lead Lighting

  19. Renting and Lead

  20. What to do if you have too much lead in your tank water

  21. Lead Contamination in Stormwater

  22. Contamination At Shooting Ranges

  23. Banned: Leaded Wick Candles

  24. Lead, Ageing and Death

  25. Metal miniatures: How to minimise the risks of lead poisoning and contamination

  26. 7 Point Plan for the MANAGEMENT OF LEAD by Australian parents and carers

  27. Countries where Leaded Petrol is Possibly Still Sold for Road Use, As at 17th June 2011

  28. Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness

  29. Facts and Firsts of Lead

  30. Lead mining royalties by state and territory

  31. Lead Mining Stewardship - Grey Lead and the Role of The LEAD Group

  32. Preventative Strategies of The LEAD Group

  33. What do Doctors need to do about Lead?

  34. A Naturopath's Experience Of Lead & People With Diagnosed Mental Illness

  35. Case File: Helping Manage Australian Lead in Petrol - How GLASS Works

  36. Glass Web & Service-Users, Experts & Volunteers, by Country; Countries with Leaded Petrol for Road Use & Worst Pollution

  37. Lead in ceiling dust

  38. Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely

  39. Esperance parliamentary inquiry follow-up factsheet: Where to from Here??

  40. Broken Hill lead miners factsheet 1893 with Note 20081015

  41. Helping a Doctor Help 35,000 Lead-Poisoned People Around the Lead Smelter at La Oroya in Peru
    Ayuda a un doctor que ayuda 35,000 personas envenenadas por plomo alrededor de la fundidora de plomo en la Oroya-Peru

  42. Fact sheet for Australian toy importers and traders

  43. Iron Nutrition & Lead Toxicity
    Informe de Acciones – Hierro y Plomo en la Nutrición

  44. Sanitarium-Are You getting Enough Iron

  45. Do-It-Yourself-Lead-Safe-Test-Kits-flyer

  46. Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  47. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to both adults and children

  48. Lead Exposure & Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There A Link?

  49. In CHINA - Blood lead testing: who to test, when, and how to respond to the result

  50. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you take advantage of the Australian government's Energy Efficient Homes Package: Insulation Program

  51. Alperstein et al Lead Alert - A Guide For Health Professionals 1994

  52. Ceiling Dust WorkCover Guide Lee Schreiber Final Nov 1999

  53. What can I do about climate change AND lead?

  54. The Need for Expert Clinical Assessments in Diagnosis Of Heavy Metal Poisoning

  55. Why you should have your ceiling dust removed before you have insulation installed

  56. Thirty Thought-Starters on Ceiling Void Dust in Homes

  57. Pectin: Panacea for both lead poisoning and lead contamination

  58. Nutrients that reduce lead poisoning June 2010

  59. Lead poisoning and menopause

  60. Fact sheet For Schoolkids From Professor Knowlead About Lead

  61. Prevention of Exposure to Lead at Work in Indonesia

  62. Mencegah kontak dengan timbal di tempat kerja di Indonesia

  63. How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Indonesia

  64. Bagaimana melindungi keluargamu dari timbal di Indonesia

  65. Cigarette Smoking & Lead Toxicity
     صحيفة معلومات: التدخين والتسمم بالرصاص

  66. Medical Evaluation Questionnaire For Occupational Lead Exposure

  67. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to children

  68. Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL and below 10 µg/dL to adults

  69. Biosolids used as fertilizer in China and other countries

  70. What are the lead poisoning risks of a lead pellet, bullet or shot lodged in the body?

  71. Alcohol’s link to higher lead and iron levels

  72. USA Case Definition of Adult (including Occupational) & Child Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL)

  73. Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children - A Renewed Call for Primary Prevention

  74. Occupational Health & Safety Fact Sheet Dangers of lead for roofers

  75. Let’s Make Leaded Petrol History - Let’s Make Leaded Gasoline History

  76. Lead, Your Health & the Environment. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Macedonian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese 

  77. Lead Safe Housekeeping

  78. Old Lead Paint

  79. Working safely with lead

  80. A Renovator's Guide To The Dangers Of Lead (Brochure 30 pages)

  81. A Guide For Health Care Professionals (Brochure 34 pages)

  82. A Guide To Keeping Your Family Safe From Lead (Brochure 20 pages)

  83. Lead Hazard Management In Children's Services (Brochure 15 pages)

  84. A Guide To Dealing With Soil That Might Be Lead-Contaminated

  85. Exposure Assessment: Lead Neurotoxicity - Is the Center for Disease Control's goal to reduce lead below 10 µg/dl blood in all children younger than 72 months by 2010, good enough?

About Us | bell system lead poisoning | Contact Us | Council LEAD Project | egroups | Library - Fact Sheets | Home Page | Media Releases
| Q & A | Referral lists | Reports | Site Map | Slide Shows - Films | Subscription | Useful Links |  Search this Site

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 Last Updated 02 May 2014
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