What you need to know about lead exposure
I have seen many patients with excessive lead levels. Often they have strange symptoms that have baffled their doctors and specialists, especially neurologists. How do we get exposed? Lead-based paint and the resulting dust and soil contamination is a main source. Other sources of exposure include the use of lead solder in canned food containers and in leaded water pipes providing domestic drinking water. However, uncommon sources of exposure still exist, including unglazed low-temperature fired ceramic pottery, pewter drinking vessels, plumbing systems with lead-soldered joints, old paint removal, indoor firing ranges, and nearby mining and smelting operations. Increasing amounts of lead in the body can cause impaired neurobehavioral development in children (low IQ), increased blood pressure, kidney injury, and anemia (CDC, 2002). According to a review in JAMA by Needleman lead affects IQ at all detectable levels.
Lead can also bind to hemoglobin displacing oxygen and causing fatigue. This is very bad for athletes. Neurophysiologic decrements can occur in adults as a result of workplace exposure to lead. At extremely high levels, lead will produce severe central nervous system injury and paralysis. The potential adverse effects of lead on reproduction are areas of ongoing research and may include miscarriage in women with high lead and problems with sperm formation in men. I have also seen a case of low testosterone. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined on the basis of animal studies that lead is a probable human carcinogen, but more study is needed on the relation of lead exposure to cancer in people. The city of Boulder, CO has an excellent webpage devoted to the dangers of lead.
How to get rid of the lead:
Chelation with EDTA, DMPS, DMSA, chlorella, lipoic acid and glutathione before and after blood or urine lead testing by a qualified practitioner. It is safe to do if your doctor knows what he/she is doing.
Needleman HL, Gatsonis CA. Low-Level Lead Exposure and the IQ of Children: A Meta-analysis of Modern Studies. JAMA.1990;263(5):673-678.