Saturday, November 12, 2016

Lead Exposure in Workplace

With the Flint lead water crisis, lead poisoning has become a trending topic of discussion. While children have a higher risk exposure from lead, according to the Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES) program, ninety-four percent of adults with elevated blood lead levels (BLL) are exposed through the workplace.
Primary lead exposures are occupational and occur in lead related industries such as refining, lead smelting, and manufacturing. According to the United States Department of Labor, there are 14 lead producing plants, which accounts for ninety-nine percent of U.S. secondary production. Other areas of exposure include home renovations (a frequent source of exposure), car repairs, electronic soldering, molding of bullets, fishing sinkers, and glass or metal soldering. Workers are exposed to lead through inhaling lead dusts and lead oxide fumes, as well as through eating and drinking near lead contaminated areas.
            Ingestion of lead can cause irreversible health damage. BLL of more than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (>10 µg/dL) is considered high. The National Toxicology program concludes that there is sufficient evidence of adverse health effects with BLL of <10 µg/dL. Adverse health effects include a wide range of health issues, from neurological to renal. Health effects include increased blood pressure, increased risk of hypertension, and increased evidence of essential tremor. Individuals with BLL of <5 µg/dL showed decreased glomerular filtration rate, reduced fetal growth in women, and adverse changes in sperm parameters and increased time to pregnancy.
            Lead poisoning is preventable through many different ways, such as avoiding carrying lead home on clothes, cleaning exhaust ventilations, wearing personal protective equipment, and through improved lead safety practice. 

Written by: Sweeta Jura 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Four overlooked issues for National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

(This post originally appeared on Michigan Distilled.)

This is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which aims to raise awareness to reduce childhood exposure to lead.

In the wake of the Flint water crisis, Michiganders may be more aware of the hazards of lead than ever before. Still, we’ve got a lot of work to do. In 2014, more than 5,000 children in Michigan had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter. That’s the level at which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends public health action to protect children, but the CDC says there is no safe level of exposure to lead. The true number of lead-afflicted children in Michigan is likely much higher, since only 20 percent of children under six years old were tested in 2014.

We’ve written quite a lot here about lead poisoning in Michigan and our work to make it a thing of the past. You can find useful background here, here and here.

Since we’ve covered the basics in previous posts, we thought we’d mark this prevention week by highlighting some lead-related issues that don’t get much attention:

Don’t get tricked by toxic treats.

With Halloween coming up next week, it’s good to be aware of a largely overlooked source of lead exposure: imported candy. The Food and Drug Administration says children and pregnant women should not eat candy imported from Mexico, which may be contaminated by lead in wrappers or through improper manufacturing practices. Candy from China, the Philippines and other countries may also contain trace amounts of lead. The federal government reports that, in California, 15 percent of childhood lead poisoning cases can be traced to tainted candy.

We don’t want to needlessly stoke fears. Halloween is fun, and you’ve got enough to worry about it. Just stick to candy produced in the U.S.

We need more cleanup contractors.

Michigan has a long way to go in cleaning up lead from homes built before 1978, when lead-based paint was outlawed. The Ecology Center recently reported that a $600 million investment to remove lead hazards from the state’s 100,000 most at-risk homes would reduce childhood lead poisoning by 70 percent and, by a conservative estimate, pay for itself in just over three years.

A major hurdle in lead abatement efforts, however, is our shortage of cleanup contractors. Michigan law requires anyone doing lead abatement work to be certified by the state Department of Health and Human Services. Because not enough contractors are certified, Michigan families face longer delays and prolonged risk of lead exposure for children.

To help speed things along, the state—for a limited time—is providing $650 stipends to contractors who sign up to get certified. In exchange, applicants must provide a co-pay of $50 and agree to bid annually on abatement jobs in Flint over the next five years. Funding is limited, so if you are interested in getting your company certified, the time is now! More information is available here or by calling 517-284-4810.

Lead poisoning is a problem for adults, too.

As this Holland Sentinel story notes, Michigan has inadequate protections for people who work around lead, such as in some manufacturing jobs. And those workers can also put their children at risk of lead poisoning by bringing it home on their clothing and shoes. In Michigan, more than a third of children whose parents have elevated blood lead levels likewise test positive.

As MEC’s Tina Reynolds said in the Sentinel story, “If we’re looking at eliminating lead in this state, we have to look at everyone…The tendency is to look at the smoking gun and be done, but there’s much more to this…If we don’t take a comprehensive approach and look at lead in adults, then we are ignoring them as well as their children.”

Hunters, you have non-toxic options.

It’s hard to beat autumn in the north woods. I went upland bird hunting in northern Michigan last weekend, I’m doing the same next weekend, and I’m getting prepared for the upcoming firearm deer season. And this year, for the first time, I’m hunting lead-free.

Lead bullets can fragment into hundreds of tiny pieces when they hit an animal. That means hunters may be unintentionally feeding their children meat that is tainted with fragments too small to notice, but large enough to be serious cause for concern. Again, there is no safe level of lead exposure. Moreover, shooting introduces lead into the environment, where eagles, coyotes and other animals can easily ingest deadly or highly toxic levels. Lead poisoning is responsible for more than half of California condor deaths, making lead ammunition—which they ingest while scavenging—the top killer of the endangered birds.

There’s a common misperception among hunters that lead ammunition is the only effective option, and that alternatives are far more expensive. Years ago, those may have been valid arguments. Today, that dog won’t hunt; research shows little difference in price or performance between premium lead ammunition and nontoxic alternatives.

If you hunt, check out this site run by wildlife biologists who seek to provide their fellow hunters with accurate information and helpful tips on making the switch to lead-free ammunition.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Lead Paint Abatement Training Dollars

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services currently has funding to train and certify new employees to perform lead-based paint abatement work. Firms receiving funds must agree to bid on lead abatement projects in Flint, Michigan. Find out more here.

Low Lead Levels in Children Negatively Affect Test Scores

A new study using data from Rhode Island’s lead-abatement program and repeated blood lead level tests finds that lead exposure among preschoolers can predict low reading scores in subsequent years.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lead Poisoning Isn’t Just Child’s Play – Adults Impacted Too

Most of the focus of the effects of lead poisoning has been directed towards children, and rightfully so. Children absorb a higher percentage of the lead they ingest into their system about 30-50% compared to 10% for adults. Additionally, the rapidly developing brains of children under six years of age are far more susceptible to lead.  Finally, playtime on the ground and mouthing behaviors put them in harms way in regards to lead exposure. All combined, the immediate effects of lead poisoning on children are far greater than the immediate effects on adults.
            However, low-level lead accumulation over a lifetime is something that is not often discussed but presents a risk. While the half-life of lead in the blood of adults is about one month, the lead that is retained in spongy bone has a half-life in the bone of about 90 days and the lead retained in compact bone has a half-life from 10 to 30 years. Therefore, someone does not need to be lead poisoned by a single point of exposure in their life. Someone can experience the negative effects of lead and even become lead poisoned simply by repeated exposure, accumulating lead in their bones over their life.
            While lead that has been built up in bones is continually moved out of the body, that mobilization of lead from bone into the blood system increases “during periods of pregnancy, lactation, menopause, physiologic stress, chronic disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, fractures, and advanced age, and is exacerbated by calcium deficiency,” according to a Medscape article titled “Pathophysiology and Etiology of Lead Toxicity.” Osteoporosis is also a situation that can lead to dangerous exposure to lead that has been accumulated in the body. As a result, it is possible to become lead poisoned even years after exposure to a source of lead.
            The effects of low-level lead accumulation on adults vary from person to person, but there is evidence of low-level lead accumulation leading to the following health problems later in life: elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular mortality, worsened cognitive performance, depression, anxiety, hearing loss, Parkinson’s disease, eye cataracts, tooth loss, and hyperuricemia (which leads to gout and, in extreme cases, kidney failure).
Also of interest is the effect that lead poisoning has on pregnant mothers and their children. There is evidence that for a mother who is lead poisoned during pregnancy, their child is two to three times more likely to develop schizophrenia. Lead that has been accumulated in the mother’s bones over time can lead to her poisoning from increased mobilization of lead stored in bones. Of course, this list is not comprehensive, so there may be other serious health issues that

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Kink-free Garden Hose / Nozzle - 428387, Yard & Garden Tools at ...Are You Watering Your Vegetable Garden with Lead this Summer?

This past June, the Ecology Center released a study examining the possibility of harmful contaminants in common everyday garden hoses. This was an update to their findings from similar studies done in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

What they found in the 32 hoses they tested was worrying levels of harmful contaminants, including lead, bromine, chlorine, antimony, tin, and phthalates. The worst offenders were hoses that contained PVC.   29% of PVC hoses containing at least 100 parts per million (ppm) of lead, 75% containing phthalates, and 50% containing greater than 1,000 ppm of bromine and greater than 500 ppm antimony. Many of the PVC hoses use recycled electronic vinyl waste, which contributes to the high levels of bromine, lead, antimony, and tin in the hoses. Hoses made of rubber or polyurethane did not contain significant levels of any of the contaminants.

The metal fittings on the ends of the tested hoses also pose potential hazards. Of the tested hoses, 15% of metal fittings contain lead. This, however, marks a definite improvement over five years ago when 40% of metal fittings tested contained lead. Of important note is of the five polyurethane hoses tested, two were labelled “drinking water safe” with no contaminants in the hose or fittings. However, of the other three that were not labelled “drinking water safe,” two had metal fittings that contained lead. On top of that, of the ten hoses in the study that were labelled “drinking water safe,” three contained potentially harmful phthalates (all three are PVC hoses), but were free of significant levels of lead, bromine, antimony, and tin. Therefore, it is important to remember when purchasing garden hoses, you must be careful which ones you choose. If they are not labelled “drinking water safe” or “lead-free,” they may contain harmful contaminants that can negatively impact the lives of you and your family.

Written by: Peter Brian Richey

Friday, April 29, 2016

Impacts of Lead Ammunition

I never was a hunter, the fear of guns and animals kept me far away from it. However, I had always been a fairly adventurous eater. I’ve had calamari, duck, and even alligator a few times. It seemed normal being in a Midwestern state that the next time I expanded my palette I would be trying venison. Before I got a chance to taste the delectable deer that so many speak about, I ran across some research on deer and how their hunted. According to The Scientific American's Wild Meat Raises Lead Exposure article , “Dr. William Cornatzer, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences and a radiologist, X-rayed 100 packages of venison that had been donated by a sportsmen group to a food bank. About 60 percent of the packages contained lead-shot fragments, even though it’s common practice among hunters to remove meat around the wound.” This disturbing information lead me to continue my research where I found that “Eating venison and other game can substantially raise the amounts of lead in human bodies. The findings have prompted some experts to recommend stricter regulations on lead ammunition.” I knew that lead could contaminate the body through lead based paint and even gas but this new information shows another route that the element can take that can have disastrous effects. The Center for Disease Control recommends pregnant women and children under 6 years of age to avoid eating wild game that is captured with lead ammunition. However, some people such as the anonymous author of “Letter: Too quick to blame lead ammo” on the Budgeteer News seems to disagree. The blog explains how a frequent venison eater had their child’s blood lead levels tested only to find that the levels were very low, indicating that eating game has not had a major impact on the families lead exposure. The author continues to explain how 99% of hunters in the area comply with the anti-lead ammo policy however animals such as the California condor are still being poisoned, suggesting there is another cause of poisoning. With limited research it is hard to say which of the two views is correct but one thing is for sure. Lead poisoning has negative impacts for adults, children, and animals alike.