THANKS FOR ASKING
Virginia Responds to Reader Questions
GET THE LEAD OUT
Q: Thanks for keeping me up-to-date with your newsletter. I know you have done your research so it saves me time. My question has to do with lead testing. I’m worried about whether my two youngest grandchildren have gotten lead from their toys. I want to send my daughter your mineral test kits because they had some toys from the Mattel list, but have heard that hair can be affected by the environment and might not be accurate. I would also like to know what you recommend if the children do test high for lead.
A: After the recent scare about lead-based paint in Fischer-Price/Mattel toys, I don’t need to tell you how serious lead poisoning can be, especially in a child. The cognitive (mental function) damage done by severe lead poisoning is permanent, and there’s increasing evidence that even moderate exposure to heavy metals such as lead and mercury can contribute to learning disabilities and autism. Here’s an e-medicine link with details on lead toxicity.
I’ve long been a proponent of testing for lead in any place where children spend a lot of time, as well as checking anything that infants and toddlers will be putting in their mouths—which is why I sell kits that test for lead on objects and in the body.
Mattel’s most recent press release stating that they are in China slapping hands and getting signed pieces of paper promising compliance with U.S. safety standards is laughable. Excuse me? It is Mattel’s responsibility to routinely test all batches of toys coming out of China for lead and other toxins (including bisphenol A) before they are distributed to retail outlets. In fact, how about before they get on the boat! These types of tests are not complicated or expensive. If Mattel can’t be bothered to attend to the simple basics of the safety of our children, then perhaps they don’t deserve to sell toys.
An aside: Shouldn’t we also be asking why the sudden exposure of China as a source of contaminated products? At the risk of sounding cynical, surely this has been going on for years, and surely it’s happening daily with products coming from undeveloped countries. Why now? And where's the FDA and the FTC? Shouldn’t some government agency be regulating what comes into the country? This is the United States of America. Who’s on first?
Hair Analysis is Reliable
Hair analysis has been perfected over 35 years and in the hands of a good lab is a reliable test for heavy metal exposure. In fact, hair analysis has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The major drawback to heavy metal testing on hair is that hair dye and hair straighteners, which contain heavy metals, can skew the test results. As long as your grandchildren haven’t been exposed to these types of products, the test should be reliable.
How to Get the Lead Out
There is much disagreement about how to get rid of lead. There’s no doubt that anybody with moderate to severe lead poisoning should immediately get chelation treatment from an experienced health care professional. Chelation involves taking a drug, intravenously or orally, that binds to heavy metals and carries them out of the body. However, it’s less clear whether chelation is more helpful or harmful when lead poisoning is not clearly established. A December 2006 rodent study done at Cornell University showed that rats with moderately high lead levels benefited greatly from chelation with succimer (Chemet), an FDA-approved chelation drug. In contrast, rats not exposed to lead but treated with succimer, suffered from significant “deficits,” both physical and cognitive, as serious as those in rats with high levels of lead.
One of the best ways to allow the body to naturally excrete lead and other heavy metals is through diet and exercise. The essential minerals and antioxidants help the body block lead and carry it out of the body. Sweating will also help pull heavy metals out of the body. Some people recommend using a sauna, but the sweating created by regular moderate exercise is probably even more beneficial because it mobilizes all of the body’s detoxification systems. In short, the better the overall health, the better protected one is from heavy metals.