QUESTION: Any advice to find proof that exposure to lead acid batteries caused my problems?
05/05/09 South Australia, Australia
13 Years ago I was fitting lead acid batteries to new cars for a major manufacturer in Australia. The batteries had become covered with the contents during transportation. I was handling the batteries bare handed. I requested gloves but was denied rubber gloves. I was handling about 300+ batteries a day, I'd come home with hole in t-shirts. 2 months latter I suffered a server back spasm after a couple of weeks of flu like symptoms. For the last 12+ years I have suffered from muscle fatigue, chronic trigger points through out my body, irritable G.I, neuropathic pain, brain fog, sleep disorders. Every time I suggest the exposures my GP changes the topic. I've been tested for everything under the sun with no results so the docs just give me anti depressants that make me feel worse. I live in Adelaide who do I see to get help or at least confirm or rule out the exposure as the cause of my problems. My employer has done nothing to help and has only made life difficult for me. They pretend that it never happened, surely they must have to prove that the exposure didn't cause my problems. I shouldn't have to be the one that has to find the proof Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
EMAIL TWO Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 2:45 PM
Subject: Does the employer have to prove that exposure to lead in lead acid battery handling didn't cause my health problems?
Thank you for the time to reply. The information is very helpful. I had a lead blood test done a year ago. I was never shown the results but was told it was ok. I never had any tests done at the time of exposure and only really made the association to the exposure 4 years ago after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The rheumatologist didn't even want to entertain the idea that lead exposure was the cause. My GP has tested me for everything but I don't know if I mentioned before that I'm waiting for a muscle biopsy. Could be waiting a long time. I'll ask to get another test. Most of my symptoms are muscle/ fascia related with fatigue related to activity. Again thank you I wish I'd come across this information years ago. It's hard to find anyone that is willing to help. I'll chase up the doctors in Adelaide.
EMAIL THREE From: "def ignition electrical" Dave. Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 10:11 PM
Hello Iman, Thank you for your email. I'm still waiting to see my GP to order a blood lead level. Is there anything I can do to ensure that any lead in my body is moved so that it shows in a blood test? I'm also awaiting a muscle biopsy. I'm being given the run around at this stage. I saw the specialist 5 months ago and he still hasn't written a referral for the surgeon. He has promised I will get the biopsy. I'm not holding my breath. Got a feeling he's protecting others opinions. I feel a biopsy is the best chance I have of identifying the cause of my constant muscle tightness and fatigue. I know that my symptoms are the result of my exposures, the doctors who should be helping are only playing politics. I'm considering seeking help interstate. Do you consult or can you recommend anyone?
Thank you most kindly
ANSWER: May 12 2009
Yes, I fear that you ARE the one who has to find the proof of your lead exposure, with the help of doctors of course. Any doctor can order a blood lead test for you so just go to another GP if your GP won't order the test, and that is the first step that you need to take if you do not already have a recent blood lead result. You should also ask your employer for a copy of any blood lead results done during the period of your employment or paid for by the employer since you stopped doing the lead acid battery fitting work.
I will also send you our Info pack on case management following earlier lead poisoning and through it, you should be able to find an Adelaide doctor trained in chelation therapy and in administering a urine chelation challenge test. The doctor should then be able to interpret your blood lead result/s along with the urine chelation challenge result to decide whether treating you for lead poisoning by chelation therapy would be valuable in your case.
I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that if you sued your employer, THEN their lawyers may mount a case attempting to prove that handling the lead acid batteries and your specific level of lead exposure did not cause your specific health problems. And if their lawyers are like the ones on all those legal shows on TV, then they'll also investigate or make accusations about other possible causes of those health effects eg, heredity, the flu, smoking, drinking, diet, bad heavy weight-lifting practices etc. If the employer never organised blood lead testing for you on the job, then that fact may be part of your reason for suing. As far as I'm aware, anyone handling lead acid batteries should have had regular blood lead testing, but your lawyer or your community legal centre lawyer could check out the South Australian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations at the time to determine if that's the case.
Even if the regulations were very general, as long as, as in every other state, the employer is responsible for identifying hazards in the workplace and ensuring adequate biological monitoring for relevant hazards such as lead, then, blood lead levels should have been done and records kept and your records should be able to be provided upon request. I have asked the 143 adult lead poisoning case manager professionals (in the USA) who belong to an egroup I belong to, whether they have ever dealt with a case of lead poisoning from fitting lead acid batteries to new cars, and to provide details. I will forward to you any replies I receive. I hope this helps and I hope to hear back from you on your progress.
All the best
Because lead poisoning causes a variety of symptoms which can be misdiagnosed as another disease, the best way to relate the symptoms that you complain of to lead poisoning is a blood lead level. So, I would suggest that you revisit your GP and ask him for a blood test to measure the blood lead level. You can also ask him to bulk bill it so that you won't have to pay anything. I will wait for your reply with the test results because if the level is high you will definitely need treatment and I can give you advice on that. Good luck.
All the best
Dr Iman Hegazi
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