LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News Volume 15 Number 2, February 2015, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor-in-Chief: Elizabeth O’Brien, Editorial Team: Yiru Rocky Huang, Michelle Calvert and David Ratcliffe

About Us
bell system lead poisoning
Contact Us
Council Lead Project
Library-Fact Sheets
Home Page
Media Releases
Referral Lists
Site Map
Slide Shows-Films
Useful Links

Visitor Number


Forensic Files Episode ‘Death by Poison: Sunday’s Wake’

Article researched by Elizabeth O’Brien,
written by Yiru Rocky Huang, for The LEAD Group.

Thanks to Lance Smith of Sydney Analytical Laboratories for alerting us to this TV documentary.

In the USA and probably in most developed countries, the risk for elevated blood lead levels (BLLs) among children remains high in some neighbourhoods and populations; including children living in older housing with deteriorated leaded paint and refugee children. Lead screening is not mandated for immigrant children in the US (or in Australia), yet there is strong evidence for high BLLs in these groups. The level that is reported below for a refugee child could very easily be applied to immigrant children in Australia as well. This article is about a lead poisoning fatality which occurred in the United States. The episode of the TV show Forensic Files which covered the case is titled ‘Death by Poison: Sunday’s Wake’ and is viewable online at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4dZdMGIl70 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C8wD1qsQq0 in two parts.

On March 29, 2000, a 2 year old Sudanese girl was seen at a community hospital Emergency Room (ER) with a low-grade fever and vomiting. She was discharged from the ER with an antibiotic and antiemetic to treat what was presumed to be strep throat. Her vomiting worsened and she was then re -admitted to the same hospital and then transferred to a tertiary care hospital the next day. She became unresponsive 5 hours after the transfer and was intubated and placed on a ventilator. Computerised tomography showed that she had dilated ventricles and showed diffuse cerebral edema. Later that day, the results of a blood test drawn showed a BLL of 391 µg/dL. This sparked an investigation by the Manchester Health Department and New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. The wall of the apartment the family moved into in March 2000 had multiple holes from which the patient had been seen removing and ingesting plaster and two of the seven samples from the apartment contained lead at levels of 5% and 12%. Peeling paint (35% lead) was present on the balusters and floor (3% lead) of a porch outside the apartment where the girl had played sometimes.

The summary of this Forensic Files episode is that the landlord was jailed for 15 months for “violating the Lead Disclosure Rule, after the patient consumed paint and plaster in a rental property and died of lead poisoning”. Under the US regulation all buyers and renters of pre-1978 housing MUST be notified of lead paint hazards. The Lead Disclosure Rule is a federal rule in the USA.

Elizabeth O’Brien suggests that it should be extended beyond paint (for housing built before 1997). It should include ceiling dust for housing built before 2002 (or before today in lead smelting and mining towns); houses with rainwater tanks added later (for housing built anytime up to today) or houses with rainwater tanks added when the house was being built for housing built up to 2004 or up to today in lead smelting and mining towns.

The CDC’s current lead screening recommendation is a part of the US government’s strategy to confront lead hazards on both the domestic and international fronts. Brown suggests, “Refugee children living in Manchester were significantly more likely to have an EBLL compared with non-refugee children. And among refugee children, we found a statistically significant difference in the mean days to BLL decline <10 µg /dL before and after recommendations to test newly emigrated children.”

It’s important to note that government regulations must be followed in order for this to be effective and in some cases refugees are placed in lead-contaminated housing either because the resettlement agency isn’t aware of the risk or the landlords don’t reveal it. Another problem can be when cultural differences create a barrier to conveying the notion that these products are harmful. For example Ayurvedic medications which are often loaded with lead, zinc, arsenic and mercury as it is though to have medicinal properties. Lead-soldered cookware; Burmese Daw Tay (traditional medicine) and glazing on Mexican pottery are other examples of leaded products found in products imported into the US and Australia. This has received significant media coverage recently but getting people to acknowledge and understand that this is a health risk is the challenge.

Another ongoing initiative is the World Health Organisation and United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paints (GAELP) project which aims to phase out the manufacture and sale of lead-based paint worldwide. So it's important that we are all aware of the risks and that we all take the matter of any lead abatement and management issues very seriously and ensure that we understand what landlords and our government are responsible for.


Charles W. Schmidt. Unsafe Harbor? Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Refugee Children. Environmental Health Perspectives 121: A190-A195 (2013). [accessed 19 February 2015]. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/121/6/ehp.121-a190.pdf

Forensic Files episode ‘Death by Poison: Sunday’s Wake’, online at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4dZdMGIl70 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C8wD1qsQq0

Contents | Previous Item | Next Item

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 LinksSearch this Site

Privacy Policy | Disclaimer

Last Updated 04 March 2015
Copyright © The LEAD Group Inc. 1991- 2015
PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2130 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9716 0014