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  QUESTION: Lead Poisoning from Sniffing Gasoline, 23 Jun 2002, North Carolina USA

I'm 27 and in my teenage years I got into sniffing gas back when it was still leaded. I have had numerous behavioral problems over the years but I have finally come to a point in my life to where I've got a good head on my shoulders, but I'm having problems with pain, fatigue, dizziness , depression are a few. I've had a lot of blood work done over the year to see what the problem is but my Dr can't find anything. I know there is something wrong but I don't think he or anyone else believes me. Not until recently did I think of the possibility of lead poisoning. My Question is could I have lead poisoning from the intentional inhalation of leaded gas fumes. I'm very embarrassed of the fact that I did participate in this. I had no idea what I was doing to myself at the time and it never crossed my mind as to be dangerous to my health.

Thank you.

ANSWER: 23 Jun 2002

Dear Sir,

thanks for your email - it must have been hard for you to ask the question but it's good that you did. There is an Australian study I could send you if you send me your postal address (it is not emailable) that basically says its the lead in gasoline that kills sniffers (though the gasoline isn't healthy either).

The usual recommended method for finding out if you have been lead poisoned is to have a blood lead test and I would recommend that you ask your doctor for one of these. However, the organic lead that is in gasoline is apparently more readily picked up by a urine lead test so it would be best to check out your urine too. The one major problem with determining lead levels in the body is that the lead shifts around the body and the best time to catch it in the urine or blood is at the time of the exposure. This should not stop you however from having a blood and urine lead test because there is always some lead leaving your body via the urine and lead in the blood stream due to gradual loss of stored lead from the bones. Lead in bone measurements by X-ray fluorescence may also be available in your area but this is mainly a research method. There is no standard method for assessing the amount of lead now found in your blood or urine which has been correlated with particular health effects like the ones you mention so although finding out how much lead you have now is worthwhile, it may not convince your doctor that that is why you are suffering pain, fatigue, dizziness and depression. Indeed there may be other causes besides the leaded gasoline or as well as the leaded gasoline for these health problems. An alternative method of assessing your lead status is provocation testing using a chelating agent followed by measuring the lead in the urine to determine whether it would be worth giving you chelation therapy, and you could find a doctor trained in this urine challenge method and in chelation therapy, by contacting The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) on phone (714) 5837 6666 or via www.acam.org (I just wish that ACAM would publish a study that demonstrates that people assessed by provocation testing and treated with chelation actually diminish their lead poisoning health effects - that's the sort of study that is missing in the literature although anecdotal evidence is common enough.)

I hope this helps
Yours sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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