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  QUESTION: Lead in your system, 02 Aug 2004, California USA

First I would like to congratulate you on the most thorough collection of information on this topic that I have found during well over an hour of web searching. If it would not be too much trouble, I have two questions which are of the greatest concern to me regarding my past exposure to lead. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

I am a 30 year old male who has always been an avid recreational shooter and fisherman. For some time I have been aware of the dangers of lead exposure and have taken precautions against it but as a child this was not the case. For many childhood years I used to bite lead split shot fishing weights onto the line using my teeth (cringe). At times I would even get pieces of lead stuck between them. Though I have never had problems academically, I often have periods of difficult concentration as well as other troublesome mental idiosyncrasies which I keep under control through strength of will. My friends would probably describe me as harmlessly weird. If this happens to be a result of lead poisoning, are the symptoms likely to progress even without further exposure or will they stay pretty much at the level they are now?

My most pressing concern is whether the amount of lead in my system may pose a threat to any future children. I understand that unsafe levels of lead can possibly cause low sperm count, infertility, etc. but assuming I can conceive, is there any danger that can be passed from the father to the child? This worries me much more than any concerns I have about myself. Thank you very much for your time.

Email 2:

Hello, sorry to hear about the funding problems, your service sounds like it is a great benefit to the community and deserves more support. Any answers that you may be able to provide in the future would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again

ANSWER: 02 Aug 2004

Thanks for your positive remarks in both your emails. Sorry I must be brief, but from my reading, I would expect that if your "weirdness" happens to be a result of lead poisoning, then the symptoms ARE likely to worsen as you age due to the demineralisation of the bones that occurs with ageing. Childhood lead poisoning has also recently been associated with osteoporosis in later life. Either way, demineralisation of the bones means that if you have a lot of lead stored in your bones then you have a higher chance once demineralisation sets in, of that lead getting back into the bloodstream and thus having the opportunity of slowing brain function, raising blood pressure and potentially causing impotence, infertility and other problems. Our recommendation for any man wishing to conceive is that he have a blood lead test to ensure that the blood lead level is as low as possible (and certainly below the Centers for Disease Control guideline level of 10 g/dL (micrograms per decilitre) for a full four months (that's the time it takes for sperm to develop) prior to conception.

I hope this helps and good luck.
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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