LEAD Action News vol 1 no 1 Feb 1993
Childhood lead poisoning in the 1950s living with the consequence
by Joy Jealous, Queensland
Having seen the LEAD Group on the Ray Martin Show, I decided to write and share my experience of having children who suffered from lead poisoning from old paint back in the '50s at Yeppoon, Queensland.
I was in flats in 1953 when my neighbour said to me one day, '1 had my 3 to the doctor and he said they have lead poisoning, so you should take yours and get them tested.' I had not ever heard of lead poisoning so ignored her advice, which I regretted about 15 months later when in the middle of the night my 2˝ year old daughter Susan started crying in agony and passed almost pure blood urine.
Next morning I took her to the Doctor, who said it was only a kidney infection. Three days later she was in a coma, but thanks to God our family Doctor came back off holidays, did tests and started treatment. He said he did not know if he could save her as one kidney was so perforated it was not working at all and the other one nearly as bad, but it was working in short spasms. 3 months she was in hospital. Doctor also said to bring my other 3 children, Raymond, Bruce and Brenda, for tests.
Bruce had been ill off and on for ages, would seem good and within a few minutes would go blue in the face and have vomiting and diarrhoea, both ends going together, and would be ill for a couple of days. The turns were getting more frequent; he had gastroenteritis at about 18 months and the doctors until then thought it was a germ from that left in his stomach. He proved positive as did Raymond, who had swollen joints, aches and pains. All were tired and listless.
Brenda, who was a finger sucker, did not show up as lead poisoned in tests. But the Doctor said when she started periods at nine and suffered terribly (had to have injections every month when they started as she would pass out), that he suspected the lead didn't show up in the joint x-ray tests because hers had gone to developing organs.
Ray and Brenda were average learners but have done well. Ray is with the Fire Brigade and has become an officer. Brenda worked in shops and does dressmaking and part-time work in a Doctor's surgery. Both suffer leg, arm aches and pains in bones but do not miss work because of it, but wonder if it could be a carry-over from the poisoning.
Sue was extra bright at school, left after junior and worked in a chemist's until she married, had a baby at age 16. Doctors thought she may not live through it but under a gynaecologist came through with a lovely daughter. She had two more daughters but lost a male baby by miscarriage around 4 months. As well, she had meningitis in late '74 and about mid '80 developed a blood condition that required the removal of her spleen. She is perfectly (or seems to be) healthy except she is an asthmatic. She has worked as a Cashier/Bookkeeper in a travel agency for quite some years now after having done part of an accountancy course. She is 40 now.
Bruce had great learning difficulties and could not read a book properly when he left school at 14˝. Doctor said his memory retaining had slowed right down. He sat every evening after he came home from work on the farm and read comics, and each time he came to a word he didn't know I would help him break it into syllables and spell and repeat the word. It wasn't long before he started to progress to other books. At 19 he joined the railways and passed his fireman exams in his 20s, and by the time he was 30 was a train driver and is still. He has bad ulcers (stomach) and also suffers back pain, but he too rarely misses a day's work.
The doctor did not test me until last year when, after years of back pain and other problems, x-rays showed crushed vertebrae. I can't do much to what I've always been used to doing. I've been to a specialist and he says they can't do anything and I can only get worse. Still there are others so much worse off than me. But I wonder if I had lead poisoning too. The health inspector who tested said paint on the roof and building showed 95 % lead. It was burnt off and we raked it up and put it in our garbage bin.
My two boys had courses of tablets to seal the lead into the bones if I remember correctly.
I hope my story will help you in your research and hopefully a proper clean-up for following generations not to have to worry.
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