The recent news in Flint, MI of lead poisoning found in children drinking tap water has prompted intervention by local, state and federal health authorities. As you know the lead toxicity was the result of corrosive municipal water leaching lead from older street and household pipes. While the situation in Flint was brought about by government ineptitude, the risk of lead ingestion in cities throughout the country should not be discounted. Any piping installation done prior to 1985 has the possibility of being constructed with lead. If the street or household pipes are made with lead it is reasonable to expect that a minimal amount of lead is being leached into the drinking water.
Filtering the water should eliminate the lead contamination. However, not every household, shop, school, building and other facility filters water before it is consumed. Consider the purchase of coffee at a drive-in coffee stand: are we sure that the water was filtered prior to the coffee being made? What about drinking water from the building water fountain—was the water filtered? In other words, there is ample opportunity for an individual to drink tap water that has not been filtered. In that case, there is a reasonable likelihood that there may be lead exposure and ingestion.
How can we check for lead? Of course, one can do a test of the water for lead contamination. Be sure to test water from the tap inside the house that has been sitting overnight. One will have the highest possibility of measuring quantifiable levels of contaminants if the water is still. If you run the water for a lengthy period this would be more accurately checking the municipal supply rather than the actual household water exposure.
For human testing we do have blood checking for lead levels as well as markers for lead increase known as porphyrin testing. To get a better idea of lead accumulation in the body, one can do a test of the excretion of lead following chelation process. Chelation is an agent, like EDTA or DMPS, that is administered either by mouth or through intravenous infusion (the i.v. is a better test). After chelation one collects the urine for 6-8 hours and then sends the specimen in for analysis. It is remarkable that testing after chelation frequently shows an elevated level of lead. Is this toxicity? No. However, it does show that one has a burden of lead in the body that has the potential for causing health problems.
To arrange for lead testing please contact our office for an appointment.
Best in Health,
Jonathan Collin, MD