Dear Doc: The importance of lead testing in Eagle County |

Dear Doc: The importance of lead testing in Eagle County

Dr. Drew Werner
Eagle County CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” It can be found in our soil and even may be found in our water. We can eat it, drink it and even breathe it in without knowing. In its purest form, it is shiny, malleable and melts easily. Those properties made it a natural choice for ancient people to make jewelry from it 6,000 years ago. For the scientist in you, it has an atomic number of 82, an atomic weight of 207.2 and its symbol is Pb.

Have you guessed what metal I am talking about? No, not silver or gold, but lead!

Dear Doc,

My son’s doctor recommended that he get tested for lead poisoning. We live in a new house. Do you think it is really necessary?

Wondering what is best, Edwards

Dear Wondering,

Lead poisoning is a very old problem that unfortunately still exists today. Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman physician, wrote of lead poisoning in his work “De Medicina.” Julius Caesar’s engineer Vitruvius cautioned his leader that water was safer to drink when it came from clay containers than from leaden ones.

Nevertheless, due to its low cost and ready availability, lead has nearly always been part of something we use every day. From solder used to make food containers and connect the plumbing in our homes, to paint and gasoline, most of us have grown up with some lead exposure.

The most significant changes in reducing lead exposure came from the ban on leaded gasoline and removing lead from household paints.

Lead was used as an anti-knock additive in gasoline until 1972, when cars that ran on unleaded gas first became available. By December of 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) completely banned the regular sale of leaded gasoline.

Lead was used in paint for several reasons. It made colors more vibrant, helped the paint resist mold, mildew and weather better, as well as dry faster. That changed in 1978 when lead-based household paint was no longer manufactured. Older supplies of lead-based paint were available and used up until 1982 however. Therefore, if your house is older than 1978, it almost certainly has some lead-based paint, and even houses built up to 1982 may contain leaded paint. Generally, that is not a problem unless the paint is chipping, cracking, flaking or remodeling is being done.

Lead poisoning, though on the decline, has very serious consequences, especially for young children. It can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, mental retardation, seizures, coma and even death at high levels. In adults it can cause high blood pressure, and lead to damage of our nervous system, kidneys and reproductive systems.

Why is lead testing so important?

– Significant developmental impacts have been identified with blood lead levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter.

– The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 310,000 children in the U.S. ages birth to five years currently have blood lead levels equal to or greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter.

– Lead poisoning is the No. 1 preventable environmental health threat to children in the U.S.

– A piece of lead as small as a grain of salt can impact a child’s health!

– Only a blood lead test can determine the child’s status.

Although our exposure to lead has been reduced, there still remain several ways we may come into contact with lead today, including:

– Foreign (particularly Mexican) candy, pottery and jewelry.

– Chinese-produced toys, child products, and some food products.

– Use of lead-containing ceramics for cooking, eating or drinking.

– Use of traditional home remedies or cosmetics that contain lead.

– Soil soaked with old leaded fuels.

– Houses older than 1978, 86 percent of which contain lead-based paint.

– Industrial by-products.

– MANY other sources are still being identified (for example, certain plastics used in covering new furniture and children’s bibs).

While all children were previously screened for lead levels, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) revised their recommendations in 1997. Their current recommendations for lead screening include:

All children receiving public assistance such as Medicaid or WIC at age 1 and age 2.

Any child at age 1 and age 2, or up to age 6 if not previously screened that can answer yes to one of the following questions:

– Does your child live in or regularly visit a house that was built before 1950? This question could apply to a facility such as a home day-care center or the home of a babysitter or relative.

– Does your child live in or regularly visit a house built before 1978 with recent or ongoing renovations or remodeling (within the last 6 months)?

– Does your child have a sibling or playmate that has or did have lead poisoning?

Remember that regular well child visits are an essential part of your young ones’ healthy growth and development! Lead testing is just one part of that screening. If your child is due for a visit or lead test, do not hesitate to call your doctor for an appointment.

Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor. Let me know what’s on your mind at

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