LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 3 no 4 Spring 1995. 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.

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Parents of Lead-Poisoned Children

Case (a) first contacted LEADLINE following the "Better Homes and Gardens" TV program on 17.10.95, featuring the dangers of lead in renovating. She and her husband had been renovating their 90 year old "Queenslander" for a number of years, sanding, sand-blasting and heat-gunning. On our advice the children’s blood lead levels were tested. The 3 year old boy’s level was 1.8 µmol/L (37 µg/dL), the 8 year old girl’s 1.1 µmol/L (22.8 µg/dL). The doctor told the mother the results were "just a bit above normal." She recontacted LEADLINE for help in understanding the implications of the results, and to work out what they needed to do. The husband said "The doctors were not at all helpful about what to do - they just said finish renovating or relocate. Because of The LEAD Group’s information we’re more educated about lead than anyone in the area, including the doctors and the Health Department." A Health Department representative said to him "Sounds like you know more about it (what to do about lead contamination) than we do!"

The family moved out of the house and the husband took a month off work to finish all the renovation work and clean up. He has been working from 5 am to 8 pm - "I’ll be glad to go back to work for a rest!" Walls not yet stripped of leaded paint were encapsulated with timber cladding, contaminated areas under the house were sealed off - "This is all from information you sent us."

They had a lot of trouble trying to locate a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. The husband was laughed at by the proprietor in the vacuum cleaner shop until he produced the information sent by LEADLINE and persuaded the man to phone a company which could provide a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. All furniture, upholstery and clothing has been washed - "Everything we’ve learned from you we’ve put into practice."

"We’ve been speaking to quite a few people - people renovating and people at work - lots of them are getting their kids levels tested now too. We’ve got a lot to thank you for - even at the high level our little boy was at, he wasn’t showing any signs. Without that TV program and LEADLINE we would have kept on renovating the same old way, even after we’d finished we’d have just kept on stirring up the lead dust with the old vacuum cleaner."
"What can I say? You were really, really helpful."

Case (b) is the mother of twin boys, one of whom swallowed a lead sinker at age 3. At the hospital (1) to which she took him, interns told her (after a phone discussion with a consultant surgeon) that the sinker would pass, and sent the child home. The Poisons Information Centre gave the same advice. She was not satisfied and contacted her GP. He advised returning to the hospital in anticipation of surgery, which she did, but the child was again sent home without even a blood lead test. The GP then referred her to hospital (2) where tests showed a blood lead of 3.2 µmol/L (66 µg/dL). His twin brother was 0.3 µmol/L (6.2 µg/dL). He was immediately operated on for removal of the sinker. The doctor in charge "looked up what had been done in the US when a child swallowed a lead sinker - that’s then what they did." Six months later his blood lead is 0.9 µmol/L (18.6 µg/dL).

The inquirer contacted LEADLINE six months after the incident after seeing an article about the dangers of lead in Sydney’s Child, a paper distributed through pre-schools, and requested information. When re-contacted about the usefulness of the information, she said "It was definitely useful - while he (her son) was in hospital, I had no knowledge, neither did the doctors or anyone. The GP didn’t know either. What information they did have, did give me, was very technical and medical. I could really have done with The LEAD Group information then. I had nothing to go on - there was a small laminated poster in the waiting area at the hospital - that was it."

She found The LEAD Group information on the comparisons of Australian and US blood lead levels particularly helpful, also the advice on nutritional methods of reducing blood lead levels. "No-one gave me any information on effects because they didn’t know themselves. No-one at the hospital was helpful - they did their job but it was a learning experience for them too - it was a bit frightening - they were experimenting with his medication, trying different things. No-one seemed to really know." She later took him to her local area health clinic. "They didn’t know anything about the effects of lead either."

"The LEAD Group information was wholly helpful." This inquirer spoke of her concern that sports and fishing tackle stores are allowed to display lead sinkers in open trays at a level where toddlers and young children can easily take them. She is particularly concerned that so many health professionals seemed to know so little about lead -"Ninety percent of parents don’t know anything, so we really need the health profession to know this stuff."

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Last Updated 17 November 2012
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