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QUESTION: Please take your toddler to the doctor immediately for a blood lead test - 01 May 2007 Victoria, Australia


Our toddler has just started chewing the paint off her cot, which was purchased second hand through the trading post. How can we check if there is lead in the paint?


ANSWER: 01 May 2007

Dear Georgie,

Please take your toddler to the doctor immediately and ask for a blood lead test. If your child chews the cot, chances are your child chews other things that may be leaded. No matter how recently your child took up chewing the cot paint, NOW is the time to test. You'll get a blood lead result back sooner (in a day or two if the doctor marks it urgent) than you'll get any lead test of paint or other items (PVC plastics, painted surfaces, dirt, soil, etc) at a lab. Knowing the blood lead level may tell you whether you need to test the cot at all, but as lead poisoning is usually investigated by the public health unit, if the blood lead level is elevated, you or your doctor should request that the public health unit send someone to the house who can choose which items are most suspect and should be tested (this is normally done at no cost to yourself). Each paint lead test at a lab will normally cost $40 and you have to post the samples to Sydney for a reliable result. I can give you more detail about testing in another email, but I cannot stress how important it is that you have your child's blood tested.

The most recent death from lead poisoning in Australasia was due to lead cot paint chewing that was left undiagnosed for two months (until the post mortem) despite the mother reporting to numerous doctors and baby health nurses that she was concerned about her baby eating the cot paint. (See: Lead In Paint On Toddler’s Cot Led To Her Death) Some doctors believe for some unknown reason that cots no longer have lead paint or that lead poisoning no longer occurs in Australia. NOT testing when parents request a test probably has a lot to do with this! If your doctor won't write the referral, go to another doctor. Why take a chance?

You can use an Emla patch over the vein in the inside of the elbow an hour before the blood is taken, to anaesthetise the area. The patches are available without a prescription from chemists. They have really good pediatric venepuncturists at children's hospital pathology clinics where you don't need an appointment as long as you turn up with the doctor's referral for the blood lead test.

All the best with this. Please let me know how it turns out.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien


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