Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Why We Care About Lead Poisoning

You may have heard about the water problems they're having in Flint, Michigan.
Here's the basics: Flint always took its water from Lake Huron, but to save money, the City leaders decided it would use the Flint River instead. That river is very polluted; in fact, some residents thought it was a joke when it was first suggested. It was to be a temporary solution, but went on for several years.
The water coming out of faucets in homes was brown and tasted bad. Not only did people hesitate to drink the water, but also to bathe in it or cook with it. Complaints were made, but nothing was done. Two years after the switch, some researchers came in and found the lead levels in the water to be much too high-19 times the amount found in Lake Huron water. The City of Flint hadn't followed Federal law regulating water quality. It was revealed that if the City of Flint had spent just $100 a day for a chemical to treat the water, the lead would have been eliminated or greatly reduced.
Where does lead come from?
  • It comes from old paint, which contained lead. Lead is no longer allowed as an ingredient in paint. Children have picked off pieces of old paint and eaten them, and if there is lead dust in the air it can be breathed in.
  • In the past, pipes used to set up water systems in cities were either made of lead or contained lead. Since this was so many years ago, replacing the pipes is a huge undertaking. Pipes can be lined with a safe coating that seals it off. 
  • Lead was also present in window blinds made long ago. Dust from these blinds can get into the air and be breathed in.
  • The ways it gets into our bodies is through eating or drinking things with high levels of lead or it can also be breathed in and absorbed through the skin.
It looks harmless...

 *Interesting to note that it is closely related to tin. In the 1600s, tin used to be called "plumbum candidum (bright tin) and lead used to be called "plumbum nigrum (black tin)"...you see where the term 'plumbing' came to be.
But it's not meant to be put into the human body.
Here are symptoms of lead poisoning:
  • Brain damage, loss of IQ
  • Tooth decay
  • Hearing loss
  • Anemia
  • Seizures
  • Short attention span, ADD, hyperactivity
  • Abdominal pain and disorders
  • Memory Loss
  • Stunted growth-it affects the human growth hormone
Children are particularly vulnerable to brain damage; their bodies absorb lead very easily. Tests done on children from Flint show that they have lost several IQ points due to lead poisoning.   

People who work in these lines of work have often been exposed to lead, through breathing in fumes or through absorption through their skin-
  • Welders
  • Printers
  • People who work with X-rays and do not wear protective gear
  • Metal foundries
  • Miners
The lead dust can be brought into the home on the clothes of people and thereby expose the rest of the household by breathing or through their skin.

You can read about the ongoing crisis in Flint here, and about the doctor that made a connection and proved there was a huge problem.

The lines on these bones are from lead poisoning: they should not be there.

Here is info from the Center For Disease Control:

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