remember, lead is natural

February 29, 2012

Earlier this week I stumbled across an article on facebook about how Burts Bees lipsticks contain lead. After the recent FDA reports that many lipsticks tested positive for "traces" of lead this wasn't particularly shocking news. Cosmetics are a minefield for poisonous unregulated crap, uhyep. Welcome to the paraben debate, come on in.

I glanced over it only briefly but the following comments below the post caught my eye:

"Lead occurs in nature."
"Remember, lead is natural."

and on the article itself:

It was one of those moments when I was so mad, so so so raging FLAMING mad that I needed to step away from the computer because anything I would have written at that time wouldn't have made any sense, it would have just said KILL IT WITH FIRE.

Lead exists in nature. Lead is toxic. There is no safe level of lead.

Do you need me to repeat it? I will. I can. After our experience with Jude having lead poisoning I don't find it all that funny and I won't just brush it aside. Neither should you.

I didn't speak up because I didn't want to take out my irrational anger on gently misguided strangers who have never had a kid with lead poisoning. They just don't know, and they don't know that they don't know. I am definitely sensitive about lead, both because of previous exposure and sheer flashbacks of panic.

Sure, lead is natural– it will also kill your fucking brain. LET'S ALL RUB IT BY OUR MOUTHS, NO BIG DEAL. Next time throw some arsenic and mercury in there, just for laughs. They're natural too, after all. HEROIN IS MADE OF PLANTS. GO PUT IT BY YOUR BABY.

Then there was this: 

This is a photograph by Matthew Christopher Murry (all rights his, bless his very talented heart). This is #1 BAMSHAMALAMA beautiful. If you have a few minutes go plunge yourself in his website Abandoned America. I killed an hour and I'm not sorry.

But #2, all I could think about over and over when I saw this picture was LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD LEAD –and then I blacked out and when I woke up the image was still there and it happened again and again until Jon came into the room and finally closed the browser. It was loud and I have a bruise on my face.

So lead! That's still a thing. It's been almost a year to the day since we found out that Jude had lead poisoning and I think we could all probably use a refresher.

{And, some of you are new. Hi. My kid had lead poisoning. It really really sucked. The Health Department came to my house. You don't want it to happen to you. We never found out why but he's better now. Cool.} Let us refresh:

Who is in danger from lead?
Children. Lead exposure effects children differently than adults, so while it's not good for big people either the major concern is for kids. Typically lead exposure peaks between the ages of 12 - 18 months due to crawling/teething/chewing.

Why is it bad?
Lead is particularly damaging to developing brains and nervous systems into the teen years. It changes their development and behavior. Problems include (low level) inattentiveness, hyperactivity, irritability, (high level) problems with learning and reading, delayed growth, hearing loss, (poisoning level) permanent brain damage, seizures, and death. Adult exposure is a whole different animal.

It's also long term. Toxic metals must be chelated (processed) from the body, which takes months. Chelating medicines can be used, but they offer their own negative side effects and should only be used in emergencies.

What are the symptoms?
Unless the poisoning has reached the highest level (far past the level of danger) there are no symptoms. Reason #284 why we all need to know a little bit about it, just in case. It's invisible but it still hurts.

Where does it come from?
The standard of lead information has always been don't eat peeling paint, which, you know, duh. What shocked me when Jude got lead poisoning is that we don't HAVE peeling paint. So while not eating paint is still something we should continue to not do, there's more to it than that.

The most common lead hazards to be aware of: Cheaply made toys including the biggest offender: play jewelry, cheap crayons and markers (yep!), dirt around the base of the house where exterior paint was often scraped right off onto the ground, peeling paint, old toys (have fun thrifting! cough cough), lead soldered piping, food, remodeling and nearby construction, chipping paint at doorways and windows

What can we do?
Here's the key point- they have to eat it. Let's repeated that- they have to EAT IT to be exposed. Touching it? Not enough. So with a bit of common sense and hand washing this will never be a problem for most people.

To do: Avoid peeling paint. Paint over old paint whenever possible. Ditch old/cheap toys. Go throw out all your mardi gras beads RIGHT NOW. I'LL WAIT. Don't play near old houses, buildings, factories, etc. Be cautious with your home repairs. If you have a house built before 1970 you probably need some more information.

Get your child tested for lead. In some geographic areas this is part of your standard well-checks at 12 and 18 months. It was for us. I didn't want to do it because WAAHHH, that sounds annoying and MY kid doesn't eat paint HA ha ha ha. Ha. Lead doesn't discriminate against cautious natural parents, I'm sorry to say. In the northeast and midwest lead testing is more routine while in the southwest they don't even bring it up. Why? Old cities with old buildings. If you live in an older area your risk level goes way up. Consult your doctor.

Lead poisoning! It's natural! It's also:
  • Scary
  • Damaging
  • Expensive
  • A huge pain in the ass

Something I heard a lot when this happened was, "Well I grew up with lead everyplace and look at me, I'm FINE." It's true, kids of the 60's and 70's had lead levels off the charts and they're still alive and kicking. Imagine all that leaded gasoline! Doctors just didn't know better yet. They probably could have been a whole generation of rockety-neurosurgeons, who knows. What we know now is that any lead is bad lead, so why would we sit around and do nothing about a problem that's so easy to avoid?

Don't our kids deserve better than good enough? Better than, oh, just a little bit of brain damage? Mine does. So does yours.

*Unless they can never figure out where you got it and your case is some kind of terrifying medical mystery. Yay us!
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