Secondary Lead Poisoning

A  case of lead poisoning in Colorado was described in the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report of May 19, 1989. 

Mean blood lead-levels were reported at 170  g/dl in a 29-year old man who had been employed at a company producing lead belt buckles, plaques, and awards.  (Lead levels of 25  g/dl are reportable to the Colorado Department of Health).  The patient worked pouring molten lead into molds, removing buckles from the mold, and then grinding and smoothing out imperfections in the finished buckles.  After chelation treatment and discharge, the patient returned to work.  Subsequently, even though the company terminated its lead-pouring operation, the patient was readmitted with high lead levels requiring additional chelation therapy.

It was noted that there was inadequate respiratory protection and ventilation, as well as a lack of maintenance on the machinery. Alarmingly, there were reports of high lead levels in the index patient's wife and three daughters.  This is evidence of "paraoccupational" exposure in which workers bring home with them home the hazardous substances they are exposed to at work, for example via lead dust on work clothing.  Radiographic exams of the 4 year old daughter revealed dense metaphyses at the distal ulna and radius, which is indicative of excessive lead absorption in growing children.  All four received chelation therapy and the youngest daughter required retreatment.

Parents' work, whether inside or outside the house, affects the whole family.  For those artists with young children, it is crucial to understand material hazards for both yourself and your child.  See CSA's data sheet Children's Art Supplies Can be Toxic for more information on this subject.


Art Hazard News, Volume 12, No. 4, 1989

This article was originally printed for Art Hazard News, © copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1989. It appears on nontoxicprint courtesy of the Health in the Arts Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, who have curated a collection of these articles from their archive which are still relevant to artists today.