A lot! It’s amazing how little you know about something until your life is directly impacted by it. My lead awareness journey began when someone shared a post with me by Tamara of Mislead: America’s Secret Epidemic (FB page, and movie in the works). Her post was accusing Earthpaste of being a greenwasher, as the bentonite clay they used as a base for their toothpaste contained lead, and that no amount was acceptable. My mission is to out Greenwashers, and I had used & been promoting the heck out of Earthpaste & Poofy Organics (also clay based) for quite some time. But I could not ignore her post, the info it provided, or the chance that my Son could have an elevated level as that was the only toothpaste he had ever used, and we’d been using it ~18 months. I had him tested for lead at 1 year (generally part of a wellness check in most states), and he was a 1 which is great (0 of course would be optimal). But, other than for an ear infection around 18 months, we hadn’t been in as he is super healthy & I don’t do well checks unless I have a concern. So, at 3 years old I took him in & he got the simple, easy finger prick test. He came back with a 2, so yes, in 2 years it had gone up. I wrote this post about toothpaste at that time, I just wasn’t sure what to think: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2014/05/15/lead-in-bentonite-clay-based-toothpaste-is-any-amount-safe/. A range of 0-4 is generally accepted as no cause for concern, per my doc office & many sites I looked up. But according to Tamara, someone I consider to be an expert, the elevation from a 1-2 was definitely cause for concern & the source should be figured out & eliminated. The effects of lead poisoning can take months/years to display, and are serious: sensory processing issues, ADD like symptoms, decreased IQ, headaches, many serious concerns! Tamara knows all about this as she has 2/4 Sons that were poisoned during a home renovation project & have issues years later.
And that’s when I started researching lead. And wow, it’s complex & it is crazy how many lives this affects in the U.S. I started looking at all the possible sources that could contribute to an elevated level: old paint is probably the #1 cause, lead paint was banned in 1978 but many older homes will still have it underneath newer coats. Water, soil, toys, dinnerware, play grounds, root vegetables, the list goes on & on. My daughter turned 1 in July, so we took her in for her 1st test. I totally expected it to come back a 1, as my Son’s had, and was shocked when I found out it was a 3! And she had never used any toothpaste, so that made me feel once again that the toothpaste did not contribute to my Son’s elevated level. So, I started addressing the top source potentials:
Our house was built in 1998 and painted in 2000, so no concern there. Lead solder in pipes is often suspect, but my in-laws built this house & I was able to verify they didn’t use that, so we scratched that from the list.
We tested our well water. We had just done an annual well test but only received results that there were no nitrates or bacteria (thankfully!), I had to call & see if lead was part of an annual test & no, it’s not so we sent in an additional sample. That came back all clear. 10 ppm is considered OK by the EPA, 5 ppm by the most cutting edge, harshest critics. Ours was 2ppm.
We tested our soil. We live in rural WI, and are the only house within site (except in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees, we can see 2 houses ½ mile across the valley). Nothing existed prior to our house being built in 1998, so I thought there was no way possible we’d have lead in our soil. Lead is naturally occurring in some soils in ppm of ~40-50. Ours came back 3.8ppm!
I was positive that 98% of our toybox was not in question, but went through it & weeded out the following items (below) (mostly arrived thanks to our in-laws who go to tons of rummage sales & drag home some undesirables). I sent them in to Tamara who uses her $40,000 testing gun. I included a plate we had just retired in favor of glass Anchor Hocking tableware, even though my kids hadn’t eaten off them, just in case. Everything came back free of lead, mercury, cadmium & arsenic EXCEPT the yellow Fisher Price syringe which tested very high, see this post: https://www.facebook.com/397517646930548/photos/pb.397517646930548.-2207520000.1406057746./970978659584441/?type=3&theater. The jingle bell bracelet also came back quite high, but my kiddos had never touched it, I just sent it in as a curiosity as I knew jewelry was often suspect. Costume jewelry and cheap jewelry is are definite suspects if you’re trying to figure out an elevated level & your kids have access to those items. I was very happy that most of the items I sent it, some made in China, tested negative. If you go to the Mislead page on FB you will find TONS of photos of things she’s tested- it’s crazy how high most vintage dinnerware (Pyrex, etc) is, and I highly recommend getting rid of any vintage anything you have, in favor of new. I know it’s not what most want to hear, but for the safety of you & your family, it should be sent to a landfill (not eco-friendly I know, but this is a SERIOUS issue)! The regulations are 100 times more stringent today than they were in the70’s-80’s!
And I was also tested, as my Baby Girl nursed exclusively for 6m & we took food very slowly, so she was still getting a lot of nutrition from me at 1 year, as all the above tests came back all clear, I was more & more concerned that I was the problem. Nope, mine came back a 1 via a vein draw (way more accurate than the finger prick).
The things I’ve heard from parents: One Mama had her 4 year old come back with a BLL of 11!! Which is VERY high, I’m worried about a 2 & 3 here. Her doc said it was acceptable & NOT TO WORRY!!! One Mama had her daughter test a 1 at 9 months, and wanted to follow-up at 3 years but her doc wouldn’t order it, saying it was fine at 9 months so not to worry- SERIOUSLY?!?! A Mama was told by her pedi “no, we don’t test for lead here (as part of an annual wellness exam), you’ll have to go to a natural/alternative center for that, and pay out of pocket- again, SERIOUSLY?! Several Mamas on WIC have told me they can’t even find out the number, they are told it’s OK if it’s under a 3.3 or in one case a 5. Well, whether it’s a 3.2 or a 1 does matter, and we should have the right to know! So again, this is a super complex issue, and it’s really up to us, the families looking out for our loved ones, to be educated & aware of this issue. As I opened with, until this affected my family in just a small way, it was completely off my radar! I highly recommend you get your kids tested once/year. If your insurance won’t pay for it, pay out of pocket (I know that isn’t possible for some, but if at all possible!) In conclusion, I’ve decided not to retest my daughter using the vein draw (again, a lot more accurate) but I do feel her 3 was a false positive. Lead has a ~45 day ½ life in our bodies, and iron & calcium-rich foods greatly help the body process lead. If we are calcium deficient, lead is soaked up into our bones in its place- scary, huh? I will retest her in 6m to 1 year. At this time, my Son is still using Earthpaste & Poofy’s clay-based option, in addition to the non-clay based option Poofy came out with to offer us another option (amazing of them!). Any questions? J