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  QUESTION: Health effects of lead poisoning mainly from leaded gasoline. 10 Jul 2003, Thailand

I hope U can help

I suffer the fear that I may be a victim of Lead Poisoning, I gather that is something of a favorite Subject of yours. A doctor here in Thailand has suggested that this may be the Trouble but he doesnt seem to be able to explain it well.

I lived for 35 years in a boat marina, a big old wooden structure built in 1910. In later years they built 2 Bridges over it, a Highway Bridge and a city bridge. The marina is very complex with large wooden beams crossing everywhere and all collecting Dust from the fall out from these beams. Though leaded gasoline was phased out in the 70s and 80s in America, the dust from the fall out of all those zillions of cars going overhead remains.

Your Specialty I gather is the effects of lead poisoning from the lead in gasoline. I have also ingested a good amount of Lead paint from operating a needle hammer and blasting off paint, not to mention the repainting efforts.

I need to get a list of Symptoms and potential Symptoms for my doctor to compare to my actual Symptoms, and I need to know the best place in the body to search for Lead and evidence of this Poisoning.

I hope you can help, I thank-you in advance and very much hope to hear from you at your earliest chance.


ANSWER: 10 Jul 2003

Dear Ross,

I've not heard that there are different health effects from lead dependent on the source of the lead (although the health effects of lead poisoning in conjunction with the health effects of sniffing leaded gasoline are another story) so the list of health effects on our website - - should look familiar to you. The best way to measure your current lead exposure is by a blood lead test which your doctor can order. Unfortunately, 95% of your body burden of lead is typically stored in your bones and I very much doubt that there would be any x-ray fluorescence (XRF) equipment in Thailand to do a bone XRF assessment of your bone stores. I only know of this equipment being available in Canada and the USA.

Hair lead tests are regarded as too easily contaminated by lead on the hair and therefore not worth having done. This leaves you with the only other option to seek a doctor who can carry out chelation challenge testing. That is, you are chelated and the lead that is dragged out of your blood by the chelating agent and deposited in your urine over a specified number of hours, gives an indication of how much lead you're carrying around.

If chelation challenge urine lead testing is not available to you, you should have regular blood lead tests and keep track of whether your blood lead level is excessive (over 10 micrograms per decilitre, 10 g/dL) or rising (as it is expected to do as you age). Keeping a graph of your blood lead level over time can at least allow you the opportunity, whenever your level is high, to identify any sources of lead and eliminate any current sources of lead intake and can explain some or all of your symptoms. Knowing your blood lead level also informs your doctor as to whether you should be taking iron, calcium, zinc or Vitamin C supplements etc.

If you would like to email me when you have your first blood lead test result, I will interpret it for you. Please provide both the number and the unit of the result (there are a variety of units such as mol/L, g/dL, g/L etc, so the unit is vital).

Now for the really big news - please find our info packs on lead and ageing, and on lead and death attached.

Elizabeth O'Brien

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