LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 4 no 4 Spring 1996  ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Lead Poisoning from Chewing on [PVC] Wires

by DMB

The following case study comes from WATCH

In December 1991, a 46 year old Ohio man was discovered to be suffering from lead intoxication. His blood lead level was 50 g/dL, with symptoms of numbness to the fingers and palms, tinnitus, and possible cognitive impairment. Usual sources of adult lead intoxication could not be found.

The mystery was solved when the man (a microwave technician at a television station) revealed that for 20 years he had habitually chewed on bits of plastic insulation that he stripped from the ends of electrical wires. The coloured wire coatings were tested and found to contain 10 to 29 mg of lead per gram.

Lead compounds are used to colour plastics and as stabilisers in the manufacture of polyvinyl chlorides [PVC]. Previous cases of lead poisoning from these products have been associated with exposures during manufacture or to burning plastics. Although this is the first report of lead poisoning from chewing wire coatings, almost 600,000 people in the U.S. have jobs that involve electrical work. People who work with plastic coated wire should stick to chewing gum.

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