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QUESTION: Is my friend's family at risk of lead poisoning from making their own lead sinkers? 20/10/11 Victoria, Australia

 My friend is a professional fisherman and they make their own lead weights for the nets that are used , a typical program may result in the making of 1,000 or more lead weights at a time necessitating a whole day to the project , he has a 9 year old son who is encouraged to assist in this program and thus would be exposed to the smelting down , pouring of liquid lead and the getting of the weights out of the casts . His major task is to pick up the weight and cut off the scrap pieces from each weight , admittedly this may occur on a monthly basis , no protection is worn and no effort to increase the ventilation in the shed is undertaken .

Can you advise if such exposure is dangerous and if so what might the outcome if the practice was to continue , I feel obliged to point out a possible hazard but I also do not wish to be a scare monger

Your advice would be very much appreciated

Kind regards

Peter Phillips.

ANSWER: Oct 20 2011

Dear Peter,

your concern for friend and especially for his son, is completely justified.

You can best help your friend by advising him, in the strongest terms, to take his son, himself and any other family members who might have breathed the lead fumes or ingested the lead dust, to the GP to ask for blood lead testing, as well as iron studies, since iron deficiency anaemia is a risk factor for increased absorption of lead.

You could usefully have a read of "Lead sinkers and your health" by Victorian Government (2/6/09 Updated March 2012) and print a copy and give it to your friend.

I'm happy to advise as to what the blood lead levels mean in terms of future health risks.

Elizabeth O'Brien

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