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  QUESTION: What difference would it make if pets were kept outside? 25 Dec 2004, New South Wales Australia

My 14 month year old son has recently been tested for lead poisoning, it was tested by finger prick apparently and the level was 9, I was told out of 10, his mother said, she has since tried to feed him in his high chair and at more regular intervals, I wanted to ask the significance and the difference it would make if her 2 cats and her dog was kept out side, as they are continuously laying and scratching where my son is crawling and playing inside the house? can u tell me more about the different levels as well please?.

thank you,
yours sincerely
Scott Varley.

ANSWER: 25 Dec 2004

Dear Scott,

Sorry for the delay in responding over the holiday period. This is an entirely volunteer service.

Yes, it does make a difference to keep pets outside and it is recommended to do so in order to bring a blood lead level down. It's excellent that his mum is not letting him eat anywhere but in his high chair and that he's getting regular small meals. See also "Fight Lead Poisoning With a Healthy Diet" 

By being aware of the main sources of lead and cutting out every exposure that it's possible to cut out, then it should be possible to turn the blood lead level around so that it starts to fall. Hopefully the doctor has recommended a repeat blood lead test in three months or less so that you can assess the success of changes at home. It's an excellent motivator for keeping up the good work.

Unfortunately, from the age of starting to crawl, the blood lead level tends to rise until the childhood peak which normally occurs sometime between 18 and 24 months. You are fortunate that the problem has been identified before he even got to 10 micrograms per decilitre (g/dL). The Australian health goal is for everyone to have a blood lead level below 10 g/dL and for young children to particularly have a blood lead level as low as possible. Less than 1 g/dL is possible these days, since lead was banned in petrol in 2002.

Dust, paint and soil are the usual main sources of lead, so ensure that wet cleaning techniques are used to manage dust without spreading it around or use a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner if there is carpet. These are available for hire free to the public from the North Lake Macquarie Environmental Health Centre at 3 Main Rd, Boolaroo NSW 2284, phone 49658933.

I hope this helps. You'll find lots more info in the factsheets and links on our website. Also find the "7 point plan for the MANAGEMENT OF LEAD by Australian parents and carers" attached.

Best wishes.
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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