Lead exposure tied to behavioral problems

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Angela41, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    I am curious if anyone has ever checked into lead exposure as an explanation for some of their children's behavioral issues? Many of the issues described in these forums could(?) be a side effect of lead poisoning. ADHD, anxiety disorders, aggressive tendencies, ODD, conduct disorder, physical delays, and most especially learning disabilities could all be side effects of lead exposure (if a child was exposed) even at levels lower than 10- the cutoff for known damage is 5 which is easy enough to pick up from sucking on a car key, a tainted toy, or breathing in minuscule amounts of leaded dust.

    Lead affects the areas of the brain that deal with IQ and executive functioning-basically the stuff that helps us function adaptively and succeed.

    Additionally, at high enough levels, it will cause a lot of physical delays and issues (e.g. immune system problems, delayed growth, etc.). There are many articles hypothesizing that ADHD cases (as much as 30%) may actually be undiagnosed early childhood lead poisoning.

    I mention this both because I am curious, but also because I have a passion for children not being needlessly, tragically robbed of their potential due to the toxins that our society has introduced into our homes, food, air, and water.

  2. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    We did have Duckie tested (a simple blood test) back when we were doing other tests because our home was built in 1959 and, presumably, lead paint would have been used. She didn't test positive for lead poisoning so it wasn't our answer but it is worthwhile testing to rule in or our heavy metal poisoning as the evidence is pretty conclusive that it leads to behavior problems.
  3. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    My 2 oldest children had documented lead poisoning at their day care center. difficult child was not born at that time and never tested positive for lead. Neither of my 2 youngest did either.

    Oldest boy has Aspie and ADHD like symptoms from the lead but is not a true Aspie nor is he truly ADHD. I got him the diagnosis so I could send him to a special school. daughter's lead poisoning manifested itself in damage to her math abilities, though her overall intelligence allowed her to do well enough in school. She is taking her required teaching math for non-math education majors this fall and I am terrified she will do poorly.

    I do believe that lead can cause behavioral and other problems and I think that ALL children should be tested at their yearly physicals from ages 1 through 8 or if they are exposed to a known source of lead. If they don't have it by then, it's not likely to impact them. Hopefully, as years go by, lead will be less and less a source of toxicity but for now, aging housing stock and the remnants of old gas stations, etc. leave lead as a distinct threat.
  4. TheBoyHasArrived

    TheBoyHasArrived New Member

    I am planning to ask to have The Boy tested at his next appointment since it's fairly likely that he was exposed in the orphanage. My only reservation is...what exactly can be done for him now, since the source of exposure has been removed? Is there a benefit to finding out that he was exposed since the damage would have already been done?
  5. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Our clinic checks for this with Q but he is one to put a lot of things in his mouth too. I remember working with a little girl who had Down's syndrome. She was doing quite well up to her 4th birthday. Her family owns a beautiful bed and breakfast on a river, when they bought it, it needed a lot of remodeling and during that time she lost a ton of skills, started screaming, lost all the words she had and it turned out that she had very high lead levels. It was heart breaking. She would be an adult now, I wonder how she is. It's a good question as to what they can do if the exposure was a very very long time ago. Will be interesting to hear if anyone knows.
  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    My difficult child tested positive for high levels of lead when she was a toddler.

    But there was no kind of "follow-up" for this. Her lead levels were high - we moved out of the old house with lead paint. And that was it.
  7. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Treatment for lead depends on the levels in the bloodstream at the time of detection. The major "treatment" is removal of the child from the source of the lead, with abatement if the child will be returning there. If the child's level is above a certain point, chelation therapy may be done. This is done in an in-patient hospital setting and consists of IV infusion of certain medications that will bind to the lead molecules, thus leaching it out more quickly. My children did not require chelation at the levels they had then, but might now because the toxic levels have been lowered by the CDC.

    I was told to give my children iron supplements because iron leaches to the lead and helps it get out of the body more quickly. As long as the lead is in the system, damage is being done. The damage is irreversible to some extent but there can be compensation. I was also told to feed them dark green leafy veggies but I was not as good at enforcing that because they refused to eat spinach or kale. I had them tested every couple of months until their levels went down and then annually for 2 years to make sure they stayed down. After about age 8, the lead doesn't adhere as strongly so poisoning is less likely.

    The level of damage depends on the child and the amount of exposure as well as the time period. For instance, I defended a case involving twins. One child's crib was against a wall, the other's next to a window. The window had chipped paint and that child developed lead poisoning. He regressed, stopped talking, began jumping and self-stimming. His parents took him to the doctor, who did blood tests. Ultimately, his lead level was over 70. Exacerbating the problem was that his pediatrician did not warn or inform his parents that his lead levels were climbing over successive tests and that there was a problem. The mom found out when she got a phone call informing her the child was in the hospital undergoing emergency chelation (which she thought was chemotherapy, poor woman). The unaffected sister was a control not present in most lead poisoning cases. My client owned the home they rented and was just a poor schlub. I settled my end of the case and told the lawyer he should go after the doctor but I don't know if they ever did. The child would be about 25 now.

    Once the lead is out, you treat the symptoms like the Aspergers, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or whatever it resembles.
  8. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    Hi- I want to just add some information. 1) Iron, calcium and vitamin C can help with decreasing the level of absorption if there is exposure. 2) and this is the part that surprised me, as the bones remodel during growth spurts, pregnancy, etc. lead can be released from the bones and back into the blood stream (causing additional damage). This makes it important that the kiddos are getting a well balanced, regular nutrition (esp. calcium, vit C and iron) throughout childhood, early adulthood and pregnancy. It helps the body excrete it faster, causing less damage 3) it can take until early adulthood to fully see the damage that lead has caused the brain and body.

    Although the potential negative side effects of lead are clear, the outcomes vary depending upon time of exposure, length of exposure, and of course amount of exposure. Other factors such as metabolism, resilience, and environment can change outcomes. Almost everyone that I have come into contact with who had a child with lead exposure mentions ADHD or ADD symptoms.

    It may be important to document lead poisoning because, if a child is having problems in school, lead exposure might help with obtaining services (traumatic brain injury).
  9. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Angelbec -

    You are right about lead possibly leaching out but it is very limited. My childrens' doctors all told me that lead stores in the femur bones and if they fracture before the age of 21, the lead can leach out and you need to inform the doctors asap so they can test the levels and treat if needed. After about that age, it's not a problem and it's not a problem with any other bones. They never told me about calcium or Vitamin C, just iron, but I'm going back 20 years so the protocols have likely changed.

    Also, I have not heard of a child who is classified and in mainstream ed at least part of the time ever being given a diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My son's original diagnosis was OHI (other health impaired) and was later changed to Asperger's. I have not heard of lead poisoning being considered Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and would really love it if you would provide some links, because I have a genuine interest in the area. One thing I am interested in but have never heard any studies about is whether a lead poisoned child can pass any lead on to his or her children. In a girl, the eggs are all there and can they be damaged? In a boy, the sperm is not there until puberty but what if he has elevated lead levels at puberty. Can the sperm be damaged?
  10. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    Hi- it's a relief to know that your doctor said that about lead leaching out. My son had a small amount of lead in his blood when he was tested at 12 months- probably from his daycare, our previous 100 year old house, or the many toys he has chewed. We also had a few antiques that he liked to touch and I caught him putting his mouth on (ignorance pure and simple on our part:(

    He appears to have no learning problems so far (in fact, right now, he is smart far beyond his age), but his behavior at home is impulsive and often physically and verbally aggressive toward us. We have to repeat the same rules to him over and over (not 10 times, more like 100) and he becomes quickly emotionally overwhelmed by even the most innocuous setbacks. This morning he threw a prolonged aggressive tantrum because I put milk on his cereal, and he couldn't calm down enough to ask for a new bowl in a respectful tone of voice. Right now he is starting to throw a tantrum because he has to wait 5 minutes while I type this note:) I don't know with certainty what has caused these outbursts and whether it will get better or worse. We have some family history of neurological and emotion issues that complicates the problem.

    We have him tested *a lot* for lead (probably at least a few times a year) because we had to go through a bunch of unexpected home renovations in our previous 60 year old house, he has previous lead exposure, and he has a constant propensity to put weird, inappropriate items in his mouth (my doctor thinks I am crazy paranoid, but better safe than sorry in my book). I think that he has oral sensory issues and I'm may ask his counselor about getting one of those chewy necklaces for him.

    I have heard that lead stays in the bones and in pregnancy, it might leach out a bit- I do think that the amount that leaches out and crosses the placenta must be negligible. Many people from my generation (child in the early 70s at the height of old houses and leaded gasoline) probably had levels of at least 10-15 at one point or another, and appear to have smart, healthy children. Many of the women in the lead community went on to have other perfectly healthy children and previously had lead in their own blood when they were exposed along with their child (usually during an old home renovation).

    There is an organization called AlphaLead where most of the mothers have children who have experienced extreme lead poisoning as infants and small children. These courageous, loving mothers have spent 100s of hours of time researching the affects of lead poisoning short, and long term. The outcomes for their kids have varied from only minor problems to major behavioral and academic issues. The ones who seem to fare the best grew up in households with stimulating environments and parents active in their care and treatment. There is another mother named Tamara Rubin (Portland Oregon) whose 2 children were poisoned during a house painting job. She is extremely knowledgable and active in lead poisoning prevention, and is currently working on a documentary called MisLead. I, personally, admire her for her outspoken views and fearless attitude when educating her community about lead. She will actually knock on people's doors if she notices unsafe renovations taking place with children in the house. It's not always well-received, but if she can prevent even one tragedy, it's a-okay in my book. She can be found by typing in her name and lead poisoning. Honestly, I think that these mothers are more informed than most of the doctors I have come across.
  11. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    I realize that I got "caught up" and didn't mention Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or fertility for males. The only thing that I have been able to find on fertility is adult data, saying that it could be a cause of male infertility. I admit that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is speculation on my part. I have read several articles that describe lead poisoning as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), because it is an external cause of lost skills and functioning-much like carbon monoxide or other environmental poisons. It seems unreasonable that documented lead poisoning (with it's well-known side-effects) would not be considered when identifying children for special education and services.
  12. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    I know everyone is all concerned about lead paint and lead toys....but in many areas, towns are STILL using lead pipes to bring water to your house for drinking! And "officially" those old lead pipes are supposed to be perfectly safe.

    So I think the jury is still out on the lead issue...
  13. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    Correct on the pipes. The answer to that is twofold- first get a water filter that specifically targets lead for drinking water. Second, run water on cold for at least one minute (until the water is very cold) before using it for cooking. This way you aren't' drinking water that has been in the pipes. We do this even in our newer house with copper pipes.

    Never, ever drink warm water out of the tap- it may be highly contaminated with lead and other things because it sits for long periods in your hot water heater. Also, warm water will leach lead and other nasty stuff off of the pipes and into your glass. A whole house reverse osmosis filter would solve the problem for lead and pretty much anything else making into drinking water. Filters must be meticulously cleaned, maintained or the problem could be worse than it would be without a filter. We just use our refrigerator filter for drinking water and run our tap on cold for cooking water. Our house now, is newer.
  14. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Oh yes - homes are no longer built with lead pipes....but the whole water system up to your house is lead pipes...

    I was just trying to point out that we are all taught the "dangers" of lead paint and lead toys - but lead is still everywhere else....along with all kinds of other toxins. It's impossible to excape it all.
  15. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    "In theory"... the minerals in the water line the pipes... and so, after some period of time of not being disturbed, there is a protective layer between the lead and the water.

    The only way to know the status of YOUR water is... to get YOUR water tested at the tap.
  16. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I was on Tamara's listserv for several months but it took over my computer and I had to unsubscribe. She is a fierce warrior mother.

    My oldest son's intelligence was not really affected; even with lead, his IQ is minimum 135 (they say it's a low estimate because his attention issues interfered with the testing process). However, he does have attention issues, even at 22... He never tantrumed and was not particularly oppositional, especially when compared to difficult child, who had no lead issues.

    Lead affects kids differently - depends on their age, amount and type of exposure. My kids were exposed at the same time but daughter is 14 months younger so they were at different developmental stages. Also, she was not mobile for the first few months they were at the day care so her levels were lower.

    I believe that lead IS taken into consideration in classifying kids if the school is aware of it. It was always in my son's reports and IEPs. As I said, his diagnosis was OHI, which could include Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My daughter was tested but never classified. Her math skills sucked but her test scores and levels were always in average range - there was a 42 point difference in her verbal and performance IQ scores but the PIQ was still high average.
  17. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    Thanks "Wise Warrior" for your reply. It helps know that kids do react differently- and I am super pleased to hear that your son is not extremely oppositional and that your daughter is doing so well.

    I keep thinking my son's levels were higher than what was tested, but I have no way of really knowing. At 5 1/2, he is extremely smart, an advanced reader and a math whiz. His counselor and his parent's as teacher's coach both state that they think he may be gifted. However, he has a terrible time with emotional regulation- he becomes angry and just lashes out before his dad or I can talk him down.

    It makes it difficult to teach him how to manage his feelings, when there is no delay time between an emotion and an inappropriate reaction. He solves intellectual problems like a child nearly twice his age and emotional problems like a child 1/2 his age. We're hopeful that he will learn better coping skills over time and that things don't get much worse.