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QUESTION: Esperance 2yr old has PbB of 7 g/dL, 4yr old has 2 g/dL & 4 month old baby has 5 g/dL - 08 Apr 2007 WA, Australia

We live in Esperance and blood tests show my family has been contaminated with lead. Our 2yr old has a reading of 7, our 4yr old reads 2 and our 4 month old baby has a reading of 5. I read to avoid fats but I also heard to eat omega3 foods and flaxseed oil as this helps the lead to bind to the fats/oils and our body gets rid of it. Is this true? Do you have any other suggestions as to what I can do to get rid of the lead out of my childrens bodies? I am also open to any alternative remedies too. Do you think people could sue the culprits? Thankyou, Donna

ANSWER: 13 Apr 2007

Dear Donna,

Yes, it is recommended to avoid fatty foods like hot chips etc but to increase the level of Omega 3 fats in the diet or supplements in order to improve the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fats. I will email you our Nutrition Info Pack but the general summary apart from increasing Omega 3 is to increase iron, calcium, zinc, selenium, Vit C in the diet or supplements and protein and pectin (as in apples and pears) in the diet and to eat more calcium rich yoghurt and cheese for instance rather than increase calcium by drinking more milk. There are alternative foods and herbs that are said to help remove lead from the body, for instance, garlic, coriander, massive doses of Vit C (which is a natural chelating agent). Drink lots of (unleaded) water and have plenty of fibre as lead is mainly flushed out in urine and faeces. Sweating is another way to get lead out of the body, but ensure that the sweaty skin is showered to stop the lead being reabsorbed through the skin. Eating 5-7 smaller meals during the day rather than 3 large ones, will ensure less lead is absorbed even if it does get into the gut, as a stomach with food in it is less acidic.

Is your 4 month old baby on infant formula or been drinking water from a tank? I assume your tankwater has been tested for lead and nickel and you now know whether that is safe to drink or not. And that if it is not safe to drink then you have been advised about a safe alternative source of drinking water. Is your home pre-1970? If so, have you been offered paint, dust or soil lead testing. Or does the tankwater result virtually explain all of the children's blood lead results? For example, does the 4 yr old drink water elsewhere (eg at childcare)?

Yes I believe that people with family members with blood lead levels over 2 micrograms per decilitre (2 g/dL ) could sue the Port Authority for not controlling dust emissions and perhaps the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) for the months of delay in releasing the bird test results to the public, as long as a competent person assesses the source of the lead and finds it to be the Port. It is evident that the DEC had some test results in January which possibly included high lead levels. A report to the public at that time therefore, even a tentative report like "we're not sure but it could be lead that killed the birds" would have put your family on notice for instance that the children should not drink the tankwater until it was tested.

A 4 month old baby has spent virtually no time crawling around their environment and thus must have been exposed to lead through either lead in air or lead in water. So unless you have been dry-sanding or heat-gunning or burning old lead paint or involved in some other activity that exposed the children to lead fumes or dust, the baby's lead level of 5 g/dL was thus, in my view, almost entirely preventable had the Port attended to their licence to allow only pelletised lead ore AND monitored dust emissions more adequately, OR, had the DEC put out an earlier warning. And if the federal Department of Health and Ageing had ever done the national children's blood lead survey that they promised to do following the removal of leaded petrol from the road vehicle fuel market (1st Jan 2002), then it would be possible to predict what your children's blood lead levels would have been, given the age of your house and any lead hobbies or lead work or other lead exposing activities of family members. As it is, you must not let anyone tell you that your children's blood lead levels are "below average" or "acceptable" or "below the Australian goal l, Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) rescinded its lead public health targets on 31st December 2005. And nobody can possibly know the average blood lead level for Australian children or adults because no appropriate survey has ever been done for adults or been done for children since 1995.

The only reason that anyone can say that your children's blood lead levels are below the World Health Organisation goal is that the WHO goal has not been revised downward since it was set in 1992, despite overwhelming evidence that a blood lead (PbB) level of 10 g/dL involves unacceptable health risks.

I will also email you our Info Pack on the dangers of a blood lead level above 2 g/dL . Please find attached an article about Water cost link to high level in kids [Broken Hill blood lead levels up for first time since 1992 + Baghurst says WHO level should be lowered to 2 g/dL ] from The Australian, 15/3/07.

I will be very interested to hear whether you can locate a lawyer who is willing to sue the government. I've been waiting for someone to phone me up and say "there's an ad in the Esperance Express - a legal firm is asking for people to join a class action over the lead and nickel emissions from the port." I feel it is only a matter of time. Please let me know how you go. Naturally, your first concern will be to see the children's blood lead levels fall and this is best done with the following four steps:

  1. locate sources of lead

  2. remove source/s from children or children from source/s

  3. improve nutrition and supplements in a lead-specific way

  4. monitor blood lead levels to determine success of actions

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth OBrien




Sent: Friday, April 13, 2007 12:40 PM

Subject: Info Pack 56 - Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 g/dL

Dear Donna,

Please find attached some recent research indicating the dangers of a blood lead level above 2 micrograms per decilitre (2 g/dL ), firstly in adults (so you might want to ask your doctor to test your blood lead level to see which tertile you are in for blood lead) and then some references re: children:

  1. "Blood Lead Below 0.48 mol/L (10 g/dL) and Mortality Among US Adults" by Andy Menke, Paul Muntner, Vecihi Batuman, Ellen K. Silbergeld and Eliseo Guallar, in Circulation - Journal of the American Heart Association, September 26, 2006 published online Sep 18, 2006;

  2. "'Safe' levels of lead may not be that safe after all" by Melissa Healy, Times Staff Writer, The Los Angeles Times 2/10/06 at 

  3. "Lead in Blood: 'Safe' Levels Too High? Average Americans Tested Had Level High Enough for Increased Heart Disease Death Risk" by Miranda Hitti , Medical Writer, WebMD Medical News, Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD Medical Editor, WebMD Medical News, Sept. 18, 2006 at 

  4. "Lead, Cadmium, Smoking, and Increased Risk of Peripheral Arterial Disease" by A Navas-Acien, E Selvin, R Sharrett, E Calderon-Aranda, E Silbergeld, E Guallar in Circulation Issue 109, American Heart Association (AHA) Inc. June 7th 2004.

  5. "'Safe' levels of lead, cadmium" by American Heart Association (AHA), 8th June 2004.

  6. "Blood Lead Levels and Death from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: Results from the NHANES III Mortality Study" by Susan E. Schober, Lisa B. Mirel, Barry I. Graubard, Debra J. Brody, Katherine M. Flegal in Environmental Health Perspectives Online 6th July 2006, The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1st Oct 2006.

  7. "Research Indicates that Low Blood Lead Levels Contribute to Early Death from Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer" by Courtney Hinton, Intern at the Alliance for Healthy Housing, & Student, University of Maryland, published in Alliance Alert, August 2006, published by the Alliance for Health Housing (AFHH) 

  8. "Exposures to Environmental Toxicants and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in US Children" by Joe Braun, Robert S. Kahn, Tanya Froehlich, Peggy Auinger and Bruce P. Lanphear in Environmental Health Perspectives - 2006 December; 114(12): 19041909.

  9. "Study: ADHD cases linked to lead, smoking" by LINDSEY TANNER, Associated Press Medical Writer, Yahoo News, 

  10. "Exposure Assessment: Lead Neurotoxicity - Is the Center for Disease Control's goal to reduce lead below 10g/dL blood in all children younger than 72 months by 2010, good enough?" by Thomas F. Schrager, Ph.D., Toxicology Source published by Cambridge Toxicology Group Inc. at 

  11.   'No "safe" lead level seen for fetal brain' by Amy Norton, Reuters,

  12. "Reduced Intellectual Development in Children with Prenatal Lead Exposure" by L Schnaas, SJ Rothenberg, M-F Flores, S Martinez, C Hernandez, E Osorio, S Ruiz Velasco & E Perroni. Environmental Health Perspectives VOLUME 114 | NUMBER 5 | May 2006


Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth OBrien

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