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QUESTION: What do we do now we know our 3 yr old has been chewing a lead painted door? 13/01/09   Victoria, Australia

My husband and I have just decided to renovate our 100 year old plus home in Central Victoria. I went and bought a lead check kit today and when I read the instructions to cut down to the bare surface beneath the paint we realised that my 3.5 year old son already had - with his teeth on a door. Imagine my horror now that I have just done the test and it came up a very dark red - we're beside ourselves! I will probably ring before you even get to reply, but needed to do something in the meantime... I rang the poisons hotline and they gave me this web site address... he has probably eaten numerous flakes - small teeth sized ones, over a period of about a year - the door has glass in it that he peeks through when he is meant to be in bed, and we realised he was chewing on it too - we will all head off for blood tests tomorrow ( we have a 15 month old too), but I wanted to know what we can do if his, or our, blood levels are too high? Is there a way to get it out of your system?!  He is a very bright, affable, intelligent and active little boy - we are terrified that he or his little brother may have levels that are too high... how do we go about finding someone to remove any lead from the wall paint (which we haven't yet tested) - we will just entirely replace the windows, architraves and doors. Is it an expensive exercise to have the wall paint removed? Do we have to be out of the house long? We figure we would put all our stuff in storage, move in with one or the other sets of parents, and get it all done in one hit - would this be the safest method? Are there lead assessors up here in Central Victoria? So sorry for all the questions, but hubby and I are just an absolute mess... please help!

ANSWER: January 13 2009

Dear Catherine,

I'm glad you rang this morning and we were able to identify three reasons why your 3.5 yr old son Cameron's blood lead level should not be astronomical despite him having chewed lead paint: He is protected to some extent by:

1. only doing the chewing not too long after eating dinner. Chewing lead paint on an empty stomach is a recipe for a much higher rate of absorption of lead from the gut. This generalisation has only been clinically observed in adult volunteers (12 hours after a meal the rate of lead absorption went from the normal 10-15% to a staggering 64%) but it is biologically plausible for the same to apply to children.

2. having a good diet. As you will see from the Nutrition Info Pack I will forward to you, it is not wise to drink lots of milk but it seems to be a good idea to have lots of dairy in the form of yoghurt and cheese etc. Lots of milk tends to fill the stomach leaving less desire for high nutrient solid foods. It's great if Cameron is getting lots of iron from red meat.

3. not swallowing non-food items. As you observed the paint basically dribbling out his mouth onto his chin, let's hope most of it was never ingested. We can most usefully discuss all your other questions if they weren't covered in our phonecall, in the context of Cameron's blood lead result. It's good that you've located "Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely" and that you have decided to remove the chewed door.

All the best

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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