Not everyone is a John Oliver fan–he can use language a little too liberally for some–but his monologue on the issue of the lead poisoning in the US last week using the backdrop of the poisoning of the water in Flint Michigan does a great of educating us on the problem of lead toxicity in our environment.
The Problem With Lead
Lead exposure can pose a significant health risk to children and adults–there’s is no safe threshold for exposure.
Children are the most vulnerable and most affected, and at levels that were once thought to be safe. In kids we see things like cognitive and behavioural problems, decreased IQ, distractibility, hyperactivity and ADHD, decreased academic performance, and poor organizational skills.
In adults, chronic exposure can cause hypertension, kidney issues, changes in cognition, anemia and infertility.
Testing Your Exposure
Fortunately, this is very easy to test. As with many toxins, we want to know:
- Are you currently exposed? To find out if there’s a current source of lead in your life, we use a first morning urine sample. This test is important because if the source of lead exposure is still there, it needs to be removed before you can effectively treat it.
- Do you have a “body burden” from a past exposure? Doing a urine challenge test with a chelator, which promotes the release of lead from your system into your urine, can help determine if you have lead in your system from a past exposure.
Both tests are important. There’s no point in treating a lead exposure if the source is still present, and there are ways to support the body’s systems to remove lead from past exposure.
You can read more about lead levels and exposure in Canada here.