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  QUESTION: Efforts to obtain the best info about lead in hair, 15 Jun 2005, Victoria Australia

The information in the article "Lead In Hair" is not consistent with the facts or with the principles of toxicology and is therefore misleading. I suggest you should obtain better information.
ANSWER: 31 Aug 2005

Dear Peter,

Sorry for the long delay in answering your email and thanks for the most recent reminder. Hair Trace Mineral Analysis (HTMA) if done by a reliable lab and interpreted by an experienced practitioner certainly seems to be an appropriate way to determine certain mineral deficiencies and toxicities but I remain unconvinced about the usefulness of hair lead analyses. There is no guarantee that the external lead is eradicated from the hair sample, there is no consistency in how the results are reported (eg the unit), there is inadequate information about the population (and when they were tested) that the result is compared to, and there is not an enormous body of research which correlates particular hair lead levels with particular health effects or their severity (as there is with blood lead levels). Despite numerous efforts over several years to obtain a hair lead fact sheet which addresses these concerns, I have been unable to do so. Please find attached all the results of my quest. If you prefer the information in these articles then I'd be glad if you'd let me know why you prefer it. I would be especially glad if you could tell me which facts and which principles of toxicology our web-published fact sheet is inconsistent with.

Thanks for your feedback. I am open to your suggestion for a different hair lead fact sheet (not to be confused with an HTMA factsheet which is easier to come by). I assure you, I've searched for one and considered the issue long and hard. Our advice to people is that a blood lead test is always of interest and a blood lead result at the time of lead exposure can't be beaten. Give me a series of blood lead results to interpret any day and I'll show you how much more info they impart than hair lead results. More effort should go into informing people of the need to test for lead in blood PRIOR TO AND AT THE TIME OF LEAD EXPOSURE than into anything else. Urine chelation challenge testing is the next best thing if you missed the opportunity to test at the time of lead exposure. I'd be fascinated to hear what 5 practitioners would have to say about a series of hair lead results over time (especially during chelation treatment) on one person - I sense they would vary considerably in their interpretation. Do you have any experience of hair lead results being useful/interpretable in a situation where blood lead results or urine chelation lead results were demonstrably useless?

Please let me know.
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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