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CVPH employees given overview of dangers of lead exposure

PLATTSBURGH It's a hot-button issue right now and the staff of CVPH Medical Center has been given the latest on how it can affect children and adults alike lead exposure. Dr. Tyrone G. Bristol, associate professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center, recently spoke to physicians and other medical personnel regarding the issue that tends to dominate the news this time of year. As hundreds of parents, grandparents and others shop for their little ones this holiday season and toy recalls are prevalent in headlines, Dr. Bristol considered the discussion came in a timely fashion. It reminds us lead is still part of the environment, Dr. Bristol said of the recent toy recalls. We worry so much about lead paint in our homes, I think we tend to forget there are many other sources. The holidays are coming and families want to buy toys for their children and they want them to be safe. An example given by Dr. Bristol of only one of the toys that has already been recalled this holiday season is a line of Curious George plush dolls made in China by Marvel Toys. About 175,000 of the dolls were recalled last month when found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which handles toy recalls based on several dangers such as choking, eye and ingestion hazards, found the dolls contained levels of lead in their surface paint that exceeded 0.06 percent or 600 parts per million, making the toys subject to a recall. China is among other countries that have been found to still use lead in paints used for everyday household items from mini-blinds to toys like the Curious George toy. Others such as Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam have found to do the same, though it can be hard to determine what countries use lead-based paint until they cross into the United States. It's really hard to tell exactly who's doing what, Dr. Bristol said bluntly. World Against Toys Causing Harm, a U.S. toy safety group, recently released its annual 10 Worst Toys list, which highlighted not only obvious dangers such as choking hazards, but potential lead exposure as well. In addition to the Curious George toy, another item expected to be hot this season was the Go Diego Go Animal Rescue Boat made by Fisher Price. The toy was also recalled when it was found to contain lead paint. Lead test kits are available on the market to determine a product's lead content, though in information released by the CPSC, consumers should still exercise caution in relying on such kits. In some instances, the staff report stated, interference from other compounds such as iron, zinc or tin, or from color or dirt transfer from the product to the test kit can lead to a false positive result where no lead is present. While toys are being focused on in recent weeks as sources of lead exposure, Dr. Bristol also mentioned traditional forms of exposure such as lead paint in older homes, should still be examined. If a person was performing remodeling of an older home and his or her child was exposed to paint dust during that time, it would be a good idea to have the child tested, Dr. Bristol said as an example. Families who adopt children from overseas or those who come to the U.S. from a foreign country should also have their lead levels checked, regardless of age, Dr. Bristol added. Pregnant women in high-risk jobs are also strongly urged to be tested as lead contamination can be transferred from mother to child through the placenta, he added. In order to stay on top of what could be literally poisoning a child, parents are encouraged to have their child screened for lead contamination by a physician at one and two years old. [Physicians] must continue to ask questions about potential lead exposure, said Dr. Bristol. If we just do that part, we can at least catch some of the kids that are exposed and see what interventions we can do. If ingested, items tainted with lead can cause symptoms as mild as irritability and lethargy. Lower levels of lead in the human body can lead to behavior issues and have been attributed to such disorders as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD. A decrease in a person's intelligence quotient, or IQ, as well other learning problems can also result. Higher doses can result in renal disease, damage to the cardiovascular system, reproductive toxicity and, if high enough, death. It's more cognitive issues you see with lower lead levels than the big medical problems you see from very, very high lead levels, said Dr. Bristol. Depending on the length and concentration of lead exposure, long-lasting impacts could be seen through adolescence and into adulthood, said Dr. Bristol. While brain damage as a result of lead exposure is currently irreversible, said Dr. Bristol, treatments can reduce the effect lead poisoning can have on the body. Chelation therapy is a process which uses chemicals to extract heavy metals from the body, while treatments such as speech and cognitive therapy can treat the effects of lead poisoning. Oral medications and intravenous medications may also be administered, depending on the lead level in the blood.

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