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QUESTION: Linking depression and reproductive problems to 8 years exposure to lead solder fumes 05/06/12 Oklahoma, USA - United States of America

I am looking for information on heath effects associated with prolonged exposure (8 years) to electronic soldering fumes. I have found a few articles that refer to these hazards, but nothing that actually states what the effects are. I am trying to tie the inhalation of the fumes to my depression and to reproductive problems. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER: Jun 5 2012

Dear Michele,

I am sorry to hear about your depression and reproductive problems.

The health effects of lead don't vary just because the source of the lead is inorganic lead such as in lead paint dust, or vehicle emissions fallout, or lead solder fumes. What varies the health effects is the length and extent of exposure. The best measure of exposure is a series of blood lead levels from before you started working with solder, during and until the blood lead level returns below 2 micrograms per decilitre (the average for US adults) after you stopped soldering. Hopefully you have all this data if you were being paid to do the soldering. If you were to graph these blood lead results over time, the area under the graph, measured in microgram years per decilitre, would give the best indicator of your exposure to lead from soldering.

Lead poisoning symptoms also vary from person to person depending on your genes and nutritional status and the age/s that you were most lead-exposed.

So all you need to find is the best available evidence on the health effects of lead at various blood lead (blood Pb) levels. At this point in time, the new "bible" on lead is 

Health Effects of Low-level Lead Evaluation

  • NTP Monograph on Health Effects of Low-level Lead (June 2012)

Once you're in the PDF, then search (use Ctrl+F) for relevant words in each appendix. For instance, appendix A listed above includes:

"Blood Pb was significantly associated with major depression disorder and panic disorder but not generalized panic disorder" from a study by Bouchard (2009); and

"Blood Pb levels were significantly associated with patient reported depression" Golub (2009); etc;

and appendix E listed above includes:

"Blood Pb levels >2 g/dL [greater than 2 micrograms per decilitre] were associated with increased OR [odds ratio ie risk] for infertility" Chang (2006); and

"Maternal blood Pb levels during the first 12 weeks of gestation were associated with spontaneous abortion" Borja-Aburto (1999).

It may also be useful to search the NTP appendices for some of the authors surnames from the references in our "Lead Poisoning And The Brain - Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness"; in the "Info Pack - Reproductive Health and Lead" that was almost all recently web-published as part of LEAD Action News - I'll send you the full Info Pack in a separate email.

I wish you the best in finding the evidence you need.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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