Thursday, July 25, 2013

My daughter has been poisoned

"Anna, we thought that we had gotten all her labs back last week, but this one just came in.  It is her lead level and it is high."

My Ellie is suffering from lead toxicity.

This lead is poisoning my baby.

This lead is what has been making her so tired.

This lead is what zapped her energy and made her very agitated.


My mama gut did not fail me.  Her pediatrician did.  I brushed off.  Ignored.  Nearly 3 weeks ago I brought Ellie into her PCP's office for cellulitis.  I mentioned that she was extremely tired and had no energy over the past 2 weeks.  A child with ADHD and the hyperactivity was entirely gone.  The doc brushed it off as a growth spurt.  I knew it wasn't "just a growth spurt".  I assumed thyroid (thyroid disorders are common in people with Down syndrome) or virus as did the Developmental Pediatrician that I contacted after the brush-off from the PCP.  Dr. F also threw in a lead level just for fun.  I am glad that she did.

Is our water contaminated?


What are the sign's of lead toxicity and is it serious?
Signs:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Poor growth or weight loss
  • Learning disability
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation


For those of you who have children with Ds, you can see why it is easy to miss lead poisoning as poor growth, developmental delays, and constipation can all be attributed to that extra chromosome.  Yes, lead toxicity is serious.  High lead levels can lead to learning difficulties and mental problems.  Seriously high levels can lead to seizures, coma, and death.



Testing 101:

All children are screened for lead, but not all children have blood levels drawn at their well child check.  What that means is parents are asked "does your child live in a house that was built before 1978?"  That is the screening.  If the answer is yes or don't know, blood is drawn to measure the amount of lead present.  If the answer is no, typically nothing is done.  Our answer has always been no.

Many older homes contain lead paint and lead in the water pipe soldering.  Flaking paint and home renovations that release lead into house dust can lead to lead toxicity.  Children under the age of 6 years are especially vulnerable to high blood lead levels.

Certain hobbies such as welding and stain glass making as well as certain jobs such as auto repair put people at higher risk because they are working with lead.  Even many home remedies, certain make-ups containing kohl and Surma, and various types of pottery contain lead.

The thing is, none of the above applies to Ellie.



No lead in the donuts!


The question is where did she get it?

After receiving that horrifying phone call, Andrew and I have been staring bug-eyed at all of her toys.  Every toy she touches could be poison.  We are paranoid.  Every eating utensil, sippy cup, and plate.  Even her books and puzzles.

In the last few years there have been recalled toys due to the presence of lead paint.  Most of these toys are imported from China (isn't nearly everything?).  A list of recalls can be found at:

https://www.cpsc.gov/en/

The items are listed from new to old.  Go back.  Way back.  Is your child playing with your old toys?  Or toys from a consignment shop?  Chalk.  I have read that unless it is the Crayola brand, chalk could be contaminated by this poisonous metal.  Maybe even the same with crayons as I saw a Toys R Us recall from 2007 related to the box housing the crayons.  Did you know that  books printed before 1986 could contain lead in the ink?  That libraries have actually been discouraged from possessing such books?  The risk is minimal and yet, if you have a child who mouths everything, it doesn't seem so minimal.

What about her school? Her therapy clinic? The CDC recommends looking into places that your child resides in more than 6 hours a week--buildings constructed before 1978.  Sleuthing on the internet suggests that her school was built in 1977.  Do they have lead paint?  What about soldering on the pipes?  What about the playground?

Yes, there could be lead there, but many construction companies ceased using lead prior to the 1978 ban.  Still, it warrants being looked into.


Is it lurking in our house?



How long has this been going on?
Lead can take from months-to-years to accumulate in the blood.  Is this something that has been building up in the past few months or has she had high lead levels since she could first crawl?

Back in 2012, the Center for Disease Control [CDC] updated their lead protocol by lowering the acceptable amount of lead in the blood from 10 mcg/dl to 5 mcg/dl.  If Ellie had her lead levels checked last year, it would have been deemed normal.

www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead


The thing is, I don't care.  A lead level of 7 mcg/dl is still too high.  A lead level of 5 mcg/dl, too high.

So now what do we do?

Texas Department of State Health


At this point, Ellie's lead level is not high enough to warrant chelation therapy (a level >45 mcg/dl).  We need to  uncover the offending toy/utensil/agent and remove it from our house/school.  Eventually, over time, her lead levels should return to normal.  Andrew purchased the 3M Lead Test Kit off of Amazon.  I have contacted the Department of Health to inquire about soil, paint and pipe soldering testing around our house and her school.



I feel as though we are looking for a needle in a haystack.




References:
Center for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/

Consumer Product Safety Commission: www.cpsc.gov

Mayo Clinic (2011): Lead Poisoning www.mayoclinic.com/health/lead-poisoning/

Fox News (2009): Lead feared in children's books. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,509614,00.html

Snopes.com (2007): Chalk Talk

CNN Money (2007): Toys R Us recalls crayon boxes for lead paint

Photobucket

28 comments:

  1. Wow! That's crazy, but I'm so glad you pushed for more testing. Your instincts were right on, although I'm sure you wish it was something else. I hope you find it soon. I really think it may be something at her school. Lots of schools have all kinds of stuff lurking in them. I worked for several years with colleagues who got sick a lot--bad headaches, vomiting/nausea, drowsiness. Come to find out there was black mold growing in the duct work around the building and it was sickening people. The district had to close our high school for the entire summer to clean it all out. It was nuts!

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    1. Uh, YUCK!!!!! I am not doubting the school. A friend of mine has been helping me research. Even if a school has been tested, they do not keep a recorded. Even if a childcare places fails the lead test, they do not have to reveal it to the public. So basically, the school could have been tested and there would be no record. I talked to the Health Department and they will not test the school. They are more likely to recommend a bronchoscopy to look for a foreign body with lead apparently. I kid you not. If tons of kids get sick, then they will test. BUT she is in a classroom with kids who has special needs--with symptoms that could be lead related or autism related or Ds related.

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  2. Have you considered researching nutritional things that can help the body chelate? I don't know much about it, but I would be curious if there are supplements that can help. Not sure how you'd feel about consulting a naturopath about it... Hoping that you can find some kind of answer soon, and so glad that you know that there is a real (if elusive) culprit.

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    1. Iron is pretty good at helping the body detox as iron and lead compete for the same binding site. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. So. . . a multivitamin taken with OJ is a good thing :) Still, I seem to recall that the binding sites prefer led over iron and that is why iron def. anemia is common with high lead levels. Bear doesn't have anemia though. . . I am typing as I think so ignore me. I need to do more research!

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    2. Lead replaces calcium in the bones, so make sure she's on a high-calcium diet.

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  3. WOW. I really hope you find the answer soon!!! That's terrifying to think that it could be anything that she comes into contact with every day. I'm always very cautious of children's jewelry, often made in China (not like my kid will *wear* jewelry). Yikes. We used to live in an old apartment building in DC, and every now and then they'd come and do lead tests on our windowsills and re-paint, have us sign waivers. Samantha never lived there. Once we conceived, we left (not because of the lead risk, but I *am* very glad we left).

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    1. I am glad that you left too! I learned a lot about lead when I lived in Philly. . . those old houses. I just didn't even think about it here because everything is so "new". Or seems new. Bear doesn't wear jewelry either but she is a mouther. Everything is tasted. e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

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  4. OMG!! To be trying to pinpoint what exactly has been poisoning Ellie must be soooo frustrating and scary! I am so glad you followed your mommy gut! I am so glad that you are on it! You are an awesome mommy and keep looking for that needle! You will find it! In the meantime is there anything you can do to help rid the lead that is already in her system? Have you thought of trying to see if you can help eliminate it naturally? A Naturopath Dr. may be able to help you with that. Thank you for posting this and I will now be buying a lead testing kit to see if any of my kids toys have lead in them!! And I bought them dollar store chalk the other day!!! Stella sometimes has EATEN it! I will throwing it away immediately!

    Thinking of you and Ellie! xoxox

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  5. Our 2 yr old was blood tested as part of her 1 year well-baby exam last year. They did not think she would test positive but she did! A whopping 12 mg/ml!!! Her main symptom was the poor growth. She was already a preemie so they attributed her tiny stature to that. We never did find the cause of her high lead levels. She was the only kid on that USAF base (we lived in housing) to have ever tested positive. She got blood-tested every 2 months until it was at 3 mg/ml then tested as part of her well-baby check-ups until it was gone.

    We did the lead testers and researched the lists... nada! We still don't know the cause. I think it was the soil, but the base didn't think so and didn't think it warranted testing because other kids were not testing positive.

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    1. Whoa! I am relieved that the lead is finally out of her system. I imagine we will never know either. I don't even think it is the school. Most contractors stopped using lead based paint even before the ban and Bear is in a little POD off the main school building which is actually new!

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear this! Way to keep advocating for your kid, Mom. Our oldest tested positive when he was 9 months old, but we lived in a super old house (built in 1889, if you can believe it) and everything was old. The city came to test everything, and we ended up replacing all the windows in our house - fortunately, the city had a grant program that paid for the windows as long as we lived in the house for a certain number of years. The whole situation was scary.

    I hope you are able to figure out the culprit!

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    1. Ah, good old windows. I actually tested our windows with a home kit. Negative. Same with our paint. I have a feeling we will never know the source. . . How is you oldest one? I am assuming that after the window replacement and once he was older he was able to clear the lead out and did okay?

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    2. The home kit only tests the TOP LAYER of paint, unless the paint is scratched, peeling, etc. Lead dust can actually "ash through" top layers so understanding lead content beneath the top layer is important.

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    3. Our oldest is totally fine now. He's 8 - and as far as I can tell, there was no lasting effect. Thank goodness!

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    4. Cathy--good point. I had to notch out her toys and cut through all layers of paint before testing. Fortunately the kits told me that or I would have just done the surface!

      Deborah, that is good news!

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  7. Wow. I've been seeing your posts about Ellie's struggles these past several weeks, so I was expecting something, but it definitely wasn't THAT. I can't imagine what you're feeling - I could feel my blood pressure rising just reading the post!

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    1. Andi, I really wasn't expecting it either. . . I was really thinking thyroid because it made so much more sense. Yeah, so lead, huh?

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  8. I'd be paranoid too! Iafter reading this I realized that I don't know much about lead poisoning, signs, precautions or tests... I need to read up a little on this and pray for you guys, which ill be doing. <3

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  9. oh my word- so scary! I'm so glad you're finding some answers, and I hope you find the source soon!

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  10. Oh my gosh. How scary...and crazy. I hope you find out the culprit soon, or that at least her levels start going down now. I'm wondering if they've already dropped a little, since she has perked back up? What changes did you make that might attribute to her feeling better?

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    1. We didn't change anything so maybe they are decreasing. I do wonder if it was the school. It was built in 1977 and I imagine the soil could be contaminated. She puts everything in her mouth too--including sand :(

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  11. Consider an Elevated Blood Level (EBL) assessment. It's not cheap, but you can hire a consultant to assess your house (including suspect toys, water, play areas, etc.), to see where the likely exposure is occurring.

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    1. Great idea! I will look into the EBL and a consultant.

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  12. I feel your frustration! I just came across your blog tonight while researching. My son is 16 months old and just got a lab result of 5 for his lead last week. We live in a rented 1960's house. DH is self-employed and lead-certified (knows safe practices) so we already knew about all the dangers of lead, and we tested with a kit from Home Depot upon moving in to this house a year ago. I'm honestly considering throwing out pretty much every toy made in China in our home. Previous to living here we lived in a house that was only 5 years old on newly cleared land so certain of no lead contamination there. Anyway, we think the lead may be in the glaze on the bathtub (so no more baths for our 4 kids, showers in our showers tall only), possibly our dishes which were made in China, one or some of the toys, or even the dirt in our backyard. It is truly like a needle in a haystack. Since we are renting, we've found a 1980's built house to rent and are moving out this month. He'll be retested in October. I really hope and pray that your daughter's levels go down!

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    1. The bathtub glaze! I didn't even consider that. Hopefully once you are out of the rental house, his lead levels will resolve. I am sorry that he is going through this. It is like a needle in the haystack and finding dishes, toys, utensils that were not made in China is really difficult too. It seems that every product we use is imported!

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  13. Have you figured out where Ellie got exposed? There are a lot of items that might have given her the toxins. It could the toys, or other stuff that were within her reach. Although I doubt she got it from something she ingested, I think you also have to be careful with that as well. I hope she was fine soon after. Take care!

    Leora Yang @ Environmental Diseases

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