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Lead Poisoning & Adults

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 8.02.45 AMThis post is a work in progress and will be updated soon with more details and additional supporting documentation links.
September 27, 2014 – 11:30 a.m., Pacific

While the primary focus of the Lead Safe America Foundation is on lead and its toxic impacts on young children it is important to note that lead can have equally devastating impacts on adults – both younger adults and older adults. It is also important to note that while the most talked about impact of lead in children is the neurotoxic impacts (the ability for lead to cause damage to the developing brain) – science has long shown that the brain (especially the frontal lobe and elements of the brain that are responsible for functions that we most associate with our “human-ness”—empathy, reason and judgement) is growing and developing through age 25.

Lead has also been shown to pass the blood-brain barrier, which underscores the danger of potential for profound impacts on those whose brains are still developing, regardless of age.

So the potential neurotoxic impacts of lead that are a concern for young children are also a concern for young adults through their college years.

Just some of the potential long-term negative health impacts of exposure to lead (from both from low-level sustained residential/everyday or professional/industrial sources) include:

  • Neurocognitive Impacts –  including early onset Alzheimer’s, ADD/ ADHD, memory issues, difficulty concentrating
  • Heart Health Compromises – including increased risk of heart-attack
  • Liver & Kidney function Issues – including kidney failure and increased risk of diabetes
  • Reproductive Disorders – including increased risk of miscarriage/ erectile dysfunction / inability to conceive

The above are considered “long-term” issues—as they are health effects that may not begin to show up during the specific time-frame of exposure – but [depending on the length of exposure – especially if the duration of exposure is measured in months or years (such as 1, 2, 3 or 4 years in a lead-contaminated college housing)] they have a statistically significantly higher possibility of showing up with varying levels of severity later in life as the result of an earlier exposure.

Additionally, immediate physical symptoms—of even low-level lead exposure—[especially in a sustained, daily dose, as might be caused by lead dust hazards in student housing on campus, and in the daily environment of a teacher working in school with persistent lead-hazards; lead in soil (on shoes, hands or clothing from daily gardening)] include:

  • Headaches
  • General Malaise
  • Digestive Issues
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Seizure
  • Compromised Immune System
  • Joint inflammation / arthritis
  • Spontaneous Abortion/ Miscarriage
  • Inability to Conceive –  and more

In the space below I am going to post as many links as I can find relevant to the specific concerns of later childhood/ early adulthood and ongoing adulthood lead exposure and symptoms.

If you know of a relevant study that supports the above statements, please share with me in the comments on this post.

There is some urgency to this, as we are working on this post to share with a specific audience regarding a specific incident of concern involving young adults (ages 18-25) who may be impacted by unknowingly agreeing to live in a housing environment that will likely contribute to a sustained significant persistent exposure .

Thank you.

Tamara Rubin
Executive Director
Lead Safe America Foundation

Note: Frustratingly, many of the academic papers that address these concerns seem to be accessible on the Internet only under the current [expletive deleted] desperate, “fund-it-yourself” model of academic and scientific research (!), but here are a few of the relevant references that one can view with expense:

  1. This article is a good background on the impact of low-level lead exposure. It also discusses the impact on a child’s academic performance and has an extensive reference list at the end of the article. LINK HERE.
  2. Lead Exposure in Adults – A Guide for HealthCare Providers:
  3. 2007; Recommendations for Medical Management of Adult Lead Exposure:
  4. Agnecy for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry; Toxic Substances Portal – Lead:
  5. Adult Lead Poisoning:

I recommend looking up the following researchers and their work for additional information:  Dr. Bruce Lanphear, Drs. Ted Lidsky & Jay Schneider, Dr. Felicia Rabito,&  Dr. Michael Kosnett.

I shared the above post with Dr. Lidsky and he responded with the following additional studies that may be of interest to our readers:

Neurotoxicology. 2011 Jan;32(1):110-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2010.11.002. Epub 2010 Nov 17.Blood lead levels in relation to cognitive function in older U.S. adults.
Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Apr;118(4):505-10. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901115. Epub 2009 Nov 6.Interaction of stress, lead burden, and age on cognition in older men: the VA Normative Aging Study.Peters JL1Weisskopf MGSpiro A 3rdSchwartz JSparrow DNie HHu HWright RO,Wright RJ.
Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2009 Nov-Dec;31(6):364-71. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Aug 15.  Lead and cognitive function in ALAD genotypes in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  Krieg EF Jr1Butler MAChang MHLiu TYesupriya ALindegren MLDowling NCDC/NCI NHANES III Genomics Working Group.
J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2009;72(10):625-32. doi: 10.1080/15287390902769410.Neurocognitive screening of lead-exposed andean adolescents and young adults.
Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Mar;115(3):483-92. Epub 2006 Dec 22.Cumulative lead dose and cognitive function in adults: a review of studies that measured both blood lead and bone lead.
Effects of lead on the adult brain: a 15-year e… [Am J Ind Med. 2007] – PubMed – NCBI 2007 Oct;50(10):729-39.  Effects of lead on the adult brain: a 15-year exploration. Stewart WF1,Schwartz BS.

One Response to Lead Poisoning & Adults

  1. Catherine Brooks, Eco-Strip September 30, 2014 at 12:58 am #

    In 2009, I became an RRP certified trainer. Knowing what I know now from that training and reading your references here, I shutter when I remember a situation I witnessed 9 years ago. A crew of subcontractors were stripping paint from old windows. The contract owner neither trained nor provided personal protective gear for his employees. They did absolutely NO containment of the lead dust. They had no washing facilities nearby. They smoked and ate their lunches in the same room as where they worked. Most of the workers were hourly laborers supporting young families. After visiting the work site, I mentioned to my husband that the crew leader did not look well. A year later, I learned that he became very ill, was admitted to a hospital and died very suddenly of choking on his own vomit. I am more convinced than before I read these articles that he died of severe organ damage from lead poisoning. I will never know about the possible damage to the other workers and their families.

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