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QUESTION: Does every child who has lead in their blood have stunted growth? 15/10/09 England, UK - United Kingdom

What a great site for information. I wonder if you could take the time to give me help with a question. I see lead has numerous effects on children, I see one is that it causes stunted growth, does this affect every child or is this one of the possible things that lead can do or does every child who has lead in their blood have stunted growth?.

Thankyou so much for your time.

Regards Chris Edmunds.

ANSWER: Oct 15 2009

Hi Chris,

you have asked an excellent question.

My answer may seem somewhat nebulous but it is a kernel of truth gleaned from nearly two decades of talking to nearly 70,000 people about lead. The effects of elevated blood lead levels can only be known from population studies - ie studies on large numbers of people. Any known health effect is thus possible, for a lead poisoned person, rather than compulsory. The big trouble with lead poisoning is that it has only one health effect which is unique to lead. Everything that lead causes, except blue line on the gums (only found at extremely high blood lead levels) CAN be caused by something else. That's why the researchers have to go to so much trouble in their study designs to eliminate or allow for all other causes of specific health problems associated with lead.

Thus, it's only true to say that the higher the child's blood lead level, the more likely it is that a child's growth will be stunted. If a child has the inherited genes which have the potential to make the child taller than average, the stunting due to lead poisoning may not be evident in that individual, except possibly by comparison with siblings who have known blood lead levels which are less than the child in question.

Another truism about lead that was told to one of our severely lead poisoned clients by a lead-experienced doctor, is that lead attacks the weakest part of a person. In that case, the woman had been blinded by lead and her family history showed problems with vision were common. So, knowing the inherited weaknesses of a person, you can to an extent, predict which of the health effects of lead might particularly affect them.

I hope that explains the situation.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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