Car Lead Dust Caused Poisoning, CDC Says

<"">Lead poisoning is considered by many experts to be one of the most important chronic environmental illnesses affecting children today. Unfortunately, despite efforts to control lead exposure, serious cases still occur; this time, from an unlikely source: The family car.

The Associated Press (AP) just reported that, in the state of Maine, some lead poisoning cases affecting children seemed to have originated from the family car. Citing government health officials, the AP said that the six reported cases are the first ever to be connected with childhood safety seats. It seems, said the AP, the seats are not the culprits; the cars’ interiors were tainted from the parent’s place of business.

Exposure to lead in children and unborn children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm.

Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond.

The AP noted what has long been known, that lead was common in paint and gasoline for years. As a matter-of-fact, according to the 1997 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 16.4 percent of children living in cities with over a million people and in homes built before 1946 have elevated lead levels. Lead was banned in paint in 1978.

In the Maine cases, the contamination occurred, said the AP, when the parents carried lead dust, inadvertently depositing it from their clothes and into their cars, citing Tina Bernier of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The AP suggested that employees who work in paint removal to change clothes and shower before entering their cars and returning home. Unfortunately, the parents involved claimed they were unable to do this because there were no facilities in their places of employment in which to change and shower, said the AP.

Lead poisoning is said to be the most common environmental illness in children in the U.S. and—although occurring in all groups—frequency varies with age, socioeconomic status, community population, race, and the age of the home. The AP reported that tens of thousands of new cases turn up annually via physician office blood tests; health officials believe that at least 240,000 children—most not diagnosed—could be suffering from the effects of lead exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that in the most dangerous cases of lead exposure coma, convulsions, and death can occur and that even at less fatal exposures, intelligence and hearing can be impaired, to name just too, according to the AP.

The AP explained that the Maine cases were discovered when a CDC report reviewing 66 cases of childhood lead poisoning there in 2008 revealed six cases in which lead contamination was not found in the homes. The family cars were then tested and lead was found inside, said the AP. In every situation either a parent or a parent’s significant other worked where metals are recycled or where paint is removed from old buildings. The CDC report can be viewed in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report at: CDC report:

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