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LEAD EXPOSURE STILL
POSES HEALTH HAZARD

Fewer U.S. adults are showing up with dangerously high lead levels, but lead remains a health threat, especially in the workplace, government researchers say.

Lead in folk medicine and ceramics can also poison people, causing problems such as brain damage and miscarriages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The CDC found 10,658 adults with high lead levels in 2002, 37 percent fewer than in 2001.

"Despite improvements in control of lead exposures, this hazard remains an occupational health problem in the United States," the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.

A sample of adults in 35 states showed that 95 percent of people with dangerously high levels of lead - defined as 25 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood for adults - were exposed at work.

The CDC found that 58 percent were exposed in the manufacturing industry, 22 percent in the construction industry and 8 percent in mining.

Among the 338 people who did not get lead exposure at work, 23 percent were poisoned while shooting guns, 19 percent from remodeling projects, presumably as a result of breathing old lead paint, and 11 percent from bullets in their bodies.

Another 12 cases came from ayurveda, a traditional form of medicine practiced in India and other South Asian countries.

"Ayurvedic medications can contain herbs, minerals, metals, or animal products and are made in standardized and nonstandardized formulations," the CDC said.

In one New Hampshire case, a 37-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis ended up in the emergency room with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. She had taken ayurvedic pills containing lead and had to undergo therapy using chemicals to attract and strip the lead out of her blood.

A 31-year-old California woman miscarried after taking nine ayurvedic medications for infertility, the CDC said.

Glazes on ceramic plates and serving dishes can also leach lead into food, the CDC warned. It described the case of a New York baby who had abnormally high lead levels at 12 months and again a year later. Water and paint in the house were untainted.

It turned out ceramic dinnerware imported from France was the culprit, the CDC said.

Provided by: Planet Ark


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