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  QUESTION: Long term health effects of early lead exposure 24 Jan 2007 England, UK

Query: Long term effects of infantile exposure? Are there any studies or reports?


  1. Family of 5 (parents plus 3 siblings) Begining at ages 18 months, 5 yrs, 8yrs

  2. 1955 to 1960, 4th Street Boolaro, NSW Garden supplied nutrition (eggs veg etc)

  3. Older child depressive and recent successful suicide.

  4. Younger child stimulant dependant, and depressive.

  5. younger child high IQ low attention span.

  6. All children socially dysfunctional throughout life, premature skin ageing, stomach & skeletal problems etc.

Any help would be appreciated.


From: Gary

To: The LEAD Group

Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 11:03 PM

Subject: RE: Long term health effects of early lead exposure

Dear Elizabeth

Thank you for your prompt reply, your condolences are very much appreciated and will be passed to his family.

May I begin by correcting a couple of misunderstandings? (of my own making) My brother died in March last year and is likely to get very upset if I go anywhere near him with a shovel. Most of the grieving for his family is over, though his passing has left a space in their lives and some blame still exists.

He had suffered for many years and had undergone lower vertebrate fusion to relieve degenerative bone disease some 20 years ago. The pain and subsequent increasing medicinal relief over this period, probably contributed to his state of mind and resolve. His family (his siblings one of each sex) have encountered no problems in producing offspring each have 2 children. I am unable to gain a psychological over view of the children, however the male child (first borne) does exhibit misplaced emotional traits similar to the father.

The middle Child, my sister is mother to 4 children, has had numerous un sustained relationships, and has been emotionally unstable for the majority of adulthood. The children are unfortunately also capable of this instability, and some birth defects visual and skeletal are apparent. My sister has had health problems throughout her life, including renal, reproductive, mobility (instability), skeletal, visual, skin allergies, auditory etc.

And now to me!:

Hope you have a pot of Lead free coffee handy! This may be cure for insomnia!

I have fond recall of my time as a child in Boolaroo, eating dirt, and my first ever, chewing gum (found in the grass at cockle creek, the other half of the maggot never did appear!) At approx 2yrs I was admitted to Newcastle Hospital for an operation to remove a squint (blood was taken, it hurt!). I later attended the local infant school and as I remember. was part of a mass inoculation for Smallpox (which was repeated 2 years later for transportation to the UK). For 3 months pre transport the family resided in what was, No.1 Creek Reserve, this abutted the river crossing point for the factories, and was great fun for a child, the external dunny was a constant source of interest!

My health record since has included intestinal problems, muscular and skeletal, initially diagnosed Migraine later accepted as chronic cluster head aches, skin allergies etc etc.

Psychologically, I have matured in a goldfish bowl from which I see and understand the world, but dislike physical contact and am unable to participate in or experience externalised emotions (autism) (though I do have my own, writing is a release at times)

My early education was poor from an institutional point of view, however this was probably through misunderstanding, or lack of, in regard to special needs at that time. Fortunately this wasn't a problem for me, as behind the blank exterior was an infinite sponge for information, without the emotional constraints of childhood, I was able to surpass my contemporation been significant in understanding family dysfunction.

Enough of that rubbish,

I managed to sire 1 child (conscious decision). Now 22yrs (the apple of her daddies eye, and the worm in his wallet!) presently at University, having travelled the world in search of knowledge (South America, working in orphanage 1 year, and 1 year in Southern Spain teaching and studying Spanish philosophy) her only physical defect appears to be a hereditary squint, passed down from Charles the First. Oh, and an uncanny cooking dysfunction. She appears emotionally stable, thankfully!


Mother deceased Respiratory complaint. Father 86 years respiratory problems, Spent 5 years in Naphthalene distillery Boolaroo Steel Works. He's not complaining as he also enjoyed his time there. He does worry that it was his decision to emigrate that brought about the demise of his son, and I believe it was his understanding of the health situation that prompted the premature return to the UK.

The family unit was full of love, gentleness and understanding, and in complete contrast to how the children matured. I understand that dysfunction in families can be attributed to many things, however the strength and seemingly individualised circumstances, and emotional degeneration of each sibling after removal from Boolaroo plus the untimely passing of my brother has spurred the need for possible answers that may help my families descendants to understand, and with a little help, place some patches over their hurt.

In closing:

I shall endeavour to get what in format I can, this will not be instant as some delicacy has to be used, however I will personally initiate testing for myself and take it from there. I will fwd any results good or bad.

Very best regards



Elizabeth, I applaud your devotion to purpose, and understand the problems that your devotion can manifest. We have been given the intelligence to explore our selves infinitely, but few of us even grasp the latch on the garden gate. Instead opting for selfish disregard of our and others potential, It may be that human kind took a wrong path at sometime in evolution and my hope is that through people like your good self we will return to the crossroad.

ANSWER: 24 Jan 2007 Long term health effects of early lead exposure

Dear Gary,

I cried when I read your email and I send my condolences for your recent loss. Actually it's quite hard to write through the tears because I do this work in order to prevent lead poisoning but yet there is so much to be done to help those billions of people who have already been lead poisoned (mainly due to leaded petrol) and the (probably millions who've lived in lead mining, smelter, recycling or waste dump communities, been exposed to lead paint renovation or building demolition dust or worked with or had a hobby involving lead) who have potentially suffered as much as the family you write about.

Yet so few of these people ever ask the questions you are asking - could the problems we've had stem from lead exposure? [Or from the mix of heavy metal and other exposures which occur in a lead smelter community?]

I'm guessing that between 1955 and 1960 in NSW, no doctor or Health Department staff ever tested the blood lead levels of Boolaroo residents or, if they did, that the records are unobtainable. I am told by old folks at Wollongong NSW that children near the Port Kembla Copper Smelter (claimed to be the largest point-source emitter of lead in NSW when it was running) were blood lead tested in the mid-1950s by the NSW health department (it had another name then) but when I rang NSW Health Department in the mid-1990s to obtain the results, they had no record of them.

Do you know of any blood lead testing results for this family (which I assume is your family - you being the middle child)?

You may know that 75% of a child's body lead burden and 95% of an adult's body lead burden is stored in the bones (including teeth). That is, most of the lead that cannot be eliminated by the body at the time of exposure (via urine, faeces, skin cells, sweat, spat saliva, lost or donated blood, hair, semen, lost teeth etc) stays in the bones. It is stored in the different types of bone for varying lengths of time (from months to decades) and is more or less constantly circulating from bone to blood and thus to every organ and back to bone for the rest of your life. For this reason, it is ALWAYS worth doing a blood lead test - at any time of your life. The result will be indicative, to some extent, of your total body burden of lead. There are various provocations which move more lead than normal from bone into the bloodstream or into urine and faeces or sweat. These include, of course, treatments for lead poisoning (chelation therapy etc), but also some drug treatments for other conditions (eg cortisone), bone breaks, drastic changes in exercise level (eg suddenly training for a marathon without previous running experience, or suddenly being immobilised in hospital for a period), the bone demineralisation associated with pregnancy, menopause and ageing, and possibly excess sun exposure.

So it would be excellent if you could organise for all surviving members of the family to have a blood lead test (just ask any GP) and if you let me know whether any of them have any of the provocations for loss of lead from bone that I have listed above, plus their age and sex, then I can give you an interpretation of the blood lead result for each person. Just be sure to obtain a copy of the result and to email me both the date of blood sampling, the number and the unit of the result - usually the unit would be micromoles per litre (µmol/L) though it may also be micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL ). As most of the research into health effects is done in the United States, it mostly refers to this second unit.

You will be able to read with meaning, (by relating it to family blood lead levels) the research in the Info Pack 56 that I will email you re: Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 µg/dL  (equivalent to 0.1 µmol/L). Macab,unction by requesting that the coroner carry out a blood lead test post-mortem. When I made this request recently of the NSW Coroner, it was indeed possible to carry out the lead test on a retained blood sample. Ashes can also be tested for lead and other heavy metals though there is much less research data available to enable a comparison and interpretation of the results.

Apart from the long-term health effects noted in Info Pack 56, have you seen the factsheet on our website at - "LEAD POISONING AND THE BRAIN - COGNITIVE DEFICITS AND MENTAL ILLNESS"? We can email you some of the references listed in this factsheet (especially those with [LID number] at the end of the reference - this is our library number] if you let us know which ones you are interested in. Similarly for the article at - "A NATUROPATH'S EXPERIENCE OF LEAD & PEOPLE WITH DIAGNOSED MENTAL ILLNESS" by Catherine Hancock. You will also find "Lead Exposure And Child Behavior" by William G. Sciarillo, ScD, MSN, Greg Alexander, ScD, MPH, & Kathenne P. Farrell, MD, MPH, online at published in the American Journal of Public Health October 1992, Vol. 82, No. 10 [LID 188]. The abstract of this Sciarillo et al article states in part:

"METHODS. The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale were used as the outcome and confounding variables, respectively, of major interest. These measures were examined with respect to blood lead levels of 201 African-American children aged 2 through 5 years. RESULTS. In comparison with the low exposed group, the high exposed group (two consecutive blood lead levels greater than or equal to 15 micrograms/dL) had a significantly higher mean CBCL Total Behavior Problem Score (TBPS) and Internalizing and Externalizing scores; when other factors, including maternal depressive symptomatology, were controlled for, regression procedures indicated a .18-point TBPS increase for each unit increase in lead and a 5.1-point higher TBPS in the high exposed group; children in this group were 2.7 times more likely to have a TBPS in the clinical range."

I hope this helps and answers your question and I look forward to hearing from you again.

I wish you all the best

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien,

Manager, Global Lead Advice & Support Service (GLASS‍

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