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  QUESTION: Can childhood lead exposure cause health effects at the age of 49? 15 Dec 2005, Ontario Canada

I was raised in a house built pre 1950. Our public School, Bruce Public School backed onto Canada Metal INC which reclaimed lead from car batteries. My baby sister was the only sibling tested for lead in the blood and had well over the 10 which was considered high risk. Soil was removed from around the school. All my siblings seem to have various symptoms. From mental instability to bowel disorders. Personally I have terrible memory issues, to the point were I have studied mnemonic devices or memory aids for years. I no longer live in the area and did not have issues or concerns until I did research for a technology class on the effects of lead whereby I discovered a symptom list that was a whose who of my family and inhabitants of our old area. A friend of mine had a colostomy at age 23. I never attributed this to lead. I am forty-nine years old and suddenly am having extensive joint trouble, memory trouble and fatigue. I have been lead to believe that lead dissipates! and is not a concern when one has removed his exposure to the lead.

My question is this can someone who had had extensive contact or exposure to lead as a child be suffering from a onslaught of symptoms in later life? Also are there groups and forums that deal with these issues in Canada?


ANSWER: 15 Dec 2005

Dear Bill,

Thanks for your interesting and thoughtful query.

It is true that the body will get rid of a small amount of lead every day but unfortunately if a person is exposed to more than a small amount of lead, then the rest accumulates and most of it is stored in the bones. The stored lead does not always remain in the bones and there are several situations (eg cortisone treatment, massive changes in activity level, bone breaks) which allow leaching of that stored lead to a greater extent than the probably continuous low-level flow of lead from the bones back into the bloodstream. As you age, the bones tend to demineralise and if in your developing skeleton you laid down lead in place of calcium, this demineralisation process will also add lead to the bloodstream thus giving that lead a second chance to affect every other organ.

The best way to find out whether your memory, joint and fatigue problems could be due to your childhood lead exposure, is to have a blood lead test now - just ask your doctor for the test. Another test you could also organise through a doctor (who has the appropriate training and experience to interpret the results), is a urine chelation challenge test. The results may demonstrate that it would be worthwhile for you to undergo chelation treatment in order to reverse or lessen some of your symptoms.

There is a wonderful not-for-profit group working on lead poisoning issues in Canada that goes by the name "The First 6 Years" formerly known as Lead Environmental Awareness and Detection l.e.a.d.. See

I shall also send you an invitation to join our global forum Lead Poisoned Adults Egroup (LPAE) that we set up this week so that lead poisoned adults can help each other through discussion see: egroups. It would be great if you could forward your queries (so other members understand your situation) and this response to the egroup to trigger a discussion of these important issues.

I hope this helps.
Kind regards
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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