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QUESTION: Can lead from paint get into a female adult tenant who cleans, and cause miscarriages? 28/04/11 Victoria, Australia

Do you have any examples of lead paint?

I just went and picked up a test from Bunnings today and it came up positive everywhere in my flat :(...there is paint peeling, white dust, very old flat, several layers of paint...

I haven't been well the past 4 yrs I have rented here... I have had low ferritin, that hasn't improved with supplements....and other health stuff. which lead me to look up an answer for myself...., and saw lead - thought about the paint, went and got a test and now I know its lead paint that might be the cause I have Questions;

I have been vacuuming the dust and just wiping it away, how dangerous is this, wouldn't the vacuum just spread it around?

The main room of paint peeling flaking is in the bathroom, does steam from the shower make the lead worse? Also I cleaned the mould from the bathroom walls with exit mould when i first moved in was this dangerous combo?

The top layer of paint is yellow, second white, third pale green, forth white and then plaster i think? The top layer actually just wipes off with a wet cloth, the yellow paint - it turned pink the white and green were a stronger red.

The lounge gas wall heater heats up the wall (paint cracking peeling there too - came positive for lead) does heat produce fumes from the lead paint on the wall next to the heater ? - there was a time when I thought gas was leaking, because I felt so sick with headaches? maybe it was the lead paint heating up?

What does this mean if you have been ttc? I have had several miscarriages in the past 3 yrs? :( Could the lead have anything to do with this?  I will go to my doctor tomorrow and get tested before I assume its the lead paint making me sick, thank you for any information.

Thank you for your time.

EMAIL TWO Friday, April 29, 2011 12:10 AM

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you so much for your quick reply.

I went to the doctor today and showed him the lead test, and asked to be tested for lead

These are the blood tests I had taken today;

FBE, TSH Pb (lead) level, Vit D, Hb A1c, IRON STUDIES, EBV serology, C-Reactive Protein

I'm not sure what some of them are but he said he would check a few other things as well.

The results will be back on Monday, so I will let you know what they are.

Meanwhile, I will do some more reading :)

Thank you for your help and information, - (I have attached a copy of the spot lead tests I did around the flat)

Thank you again - Kind Regards,


ANSWER: Apr 28 2011

Dear Deborah,

I'm really sorry to hear about your miscarriages. You ask some excellent questions. You're absolutely right to ask your doctor for a blood lead test as a priority. This one test result can potentially answer most of your questions although you may also need to investigate why supplements don't raise your ferritin level too, as a separate or possibly related issue. And of course, there are many causes of miscarriage other than a raised blood lead level.

For example, "Traffic pollution may be to blame for miscarriages, say researchers" at points out that particulate pollution and nitrogen dioxide may induce miscarriages.

I hope that your gas heater is flued, as, according to the NSW Health Department, nitrogen dioxide (and carbon monoxide) can be given off by unflued gas heaters. [Ref: Unflued gas heaters  ].

You can also find a summary of a 2004 federal government report: "Unflued gas appliances and air quality in Australian homes" on the Dept of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities (DSEWPaC) website which states that "The measured average peak indoor 1 hour nitrogen dioxide levels were over 10 times higher than the equivalent measured outdoor values [when the gas appliance was in normal use]... Air pollutant levels, especially for nitrogen dioxide, were often significantly above health based indoor air quality criteria."

Once you have your blood lead result, it would be important for you to let the doctor know about the following conclusion from a 1999 study:

"For each 1  g/dL [microgram per declitre] increase in blood lead, the risk [of spontaneous abortion] increased 1.13-fold; this magnitude of association represents close to a doubling of spontaneous abortion risk for every 5 g/dL increase in blood lead (odds ratio (OR) = 1.8, 95 percent CI 1.1, 3.1)." [Ref: "Blood lead levels measured prospectively and risk of spontaneous abortion" Victor H. Borja-Aburto, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Magdalena Rojas Lopez, Paulina Farias, Camilo Rios, and Julia Blanco. American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 150, No. 6, Copyright 1999 by The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. All rights reserved. Received for publication August 18, 1998, and accepted for publication January 22, 1999.]

No study has been done in Australia indicating what exactly "normal blood lead levels" are here so you should certainly question any remark made by the doctor as to your blood lead result being "normal". In the USA, the most recent in a series of large-scale national blood lead surveys found a geometric mean blood lead level for women aged between 20 and 59 of 1.7 micrograms per decilitre and for men in the same age range, the mean was 2.9 g/dL. [Reference: Table 2 in "Blood Lead Levels --- United States, 1999--2002 MMWR May 27, 2005 / 54(20);513-516  (NHANES) ]

Due to a whole lot of studies finding adverse health effects of blood lead levels above 2  g/dL (2 micrograms per decilitre) in adults [see Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 μg/dL and below 10 μg/dL to adults ] we now recommend that you test suspect samples of dust and soil and water that you may be getting lead from, if your blood lead level is above 2 g/dL. This is approximately equal to 0.1 mol/L (micromoles per litre).

I can give much more detailed "next steps" once you let me know your blood lead result.

It's not likely that the heater would turn the lead paint into lead fumes but the cracking paint could easily fall off and be crushed underfoot. Yes vacuuming is not recommended unless you have a good HEPA vac. Replacing carpet with hard floors that are moppable is the answer. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Please keep in touch.

Wet-cleaning lead paint is the best way to manage chalking paint in the short term, so using Exit Mould would not have released lead, though I have no idea if Exit Mould itself is safe. I hope this helps.

All the best

Elizabeth O'Brien

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