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QUESTION: Could lightly sanding 2 doors with sandpaper be enough exposure to lead dust to cause my miscarriage at 11 wks? 12/10/09 (Crna Gora, Montenegro

I miscarried at 11 weeks. I sanded down 2 painted doors that were painted with an oil based paint about 2 or 3 weeks before I miscarried. Could this have caused my miscarriage? Is it too late to get a blood test to see if lead is in my blood? I am horrified that I did not think about this as possibly being harmful to my unborn baby. I would really like to know that chance of this being the cause. Was this enough exposure to paint dust to cause harm? I lightly sanded 2 doors with sandpaper. Please let me know if you have any info for me on this.

EMAIL TWO Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 7:06 AM

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for your quick response to my question. I really appreciate your help. We are currently living in Montenegro, Europe and so the healthcare system here is a bit different. We went down to a private lab to get the blood test done and we were told they do not do lead tests there. They told us the only place to get a lead test is the hospital. It was too late to get the blood test done because they only do them in the mornings there. Therefore, we will have to wait until Wednesday to get the blood test done. I hope it is not too late. I will email the results if I am able to get the test done on Wednesday. Thank you very much for the info. you sent me. It is so wonderful to have a way to get some answers.

ANSWER: Oct 12 2009

Dear Madam,

I'm really sorry to hear about your miscarriage. You must be devastated. It is certainly not too late to request a blood lead test (though you should have one done today, along with iron studies on the same blood sample) and although it may sound morbid, the foetus and/or placenta, if available, could also be tested for lead.

I know that it is only very high blood lead levels that can cause miscarriage.

Your current blood lead test result will likely not be as high as your blood lead result if you'd had one done immediately after the sanding episode. There are a number of factors which influence the rate of reduction of a blood lead level if it is elevated from one incident (rather than chronic exposure to say, lead in the air if you were living next door to an auto refinishing shop with no vacuum extraction on their paint sanding operation):

  • - the higher the peak blood lead level, the longer the blood lead level will take to fall
  • - the peak blood lead level will depend on the concentration of lead in the paint AND on how much of it you got into you
  • - how much you got into you depends on whether you were wearing a mask or respirator (and how well-fitting it was) plus your level of hand to mouth activity. Smoking drastically increases hand to mouth activity, and intake (and possibly absorption) of lead but I dare say you don't have that added catastrophe to worry about.
  • - your rate of absorption of any lead which got into you (dust that is breathed in is typically taken on into the stomach) is dependent on many factors also, but especially on your nutritional status, specifically your iron status (the more iron deficient you are the more lead is absorbed) and the acidity of your stomach (in turn dependent on how much food was in your stomach at the time: the sooner you worked after eating, the less acidic your stomach is and the less lead will be absorbed)
  • - your diet can significantly influence how much lead is removed from your body once the lead is absorbed into the blood stream. I will send you our draft Info Pack on nutrition to fight lead poisoning, in a separate email.

Please let me know the blood lead result/s so that I can give a more specific answer to your question as to whether the sanding of the lead paint could have caused the miscarriage.

I hope that all the paint dust has been wet-cleaned off all hard surfaces, and that there was no carpet or other difficult-to-clean surface onto which the dust fell.

Kind regards

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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