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Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Number of lead poisoning cases in Kansas more than three times the national average

June 30, 2011

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— The lead poisoning rate for U.S. adults has fallen by more than half in the last 15 years, but it remains unusually high in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Kansas, federal health officials said Thursday.

About 6 out of every 100,000 employed adults had lead poisoning in 2009, down from 14 per 100,000 in 1994.

"It's definitely good news. It dropped by over 50 percent," said one of the study's authors, Dr. Geoff Calvert of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lead poisoning in adults is almost always due to at-work exposures. CDC officials say the decline may be tied to a reduction in the number of manufacturing jobs that involve lead, lead paint or lead dust.

One example: Employment in the lead and zinc ore mining industry dropped from more than 2,200 in 2001 to 1,666 in 2009, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Improved conditions in factories or at construction sites where lead is found may be another explanation, said Calvert, who leads a CDC team that monitors workplace illnesses.

Lead is a metal that can harm the brain, kidneys and other organs. For years it was used in gasoline and paint. Children are especially susceptible, and there is a much lower threshold in blood lead levels for a child to be diagnosed with lead poisoning.

The new report is based on adults who had been to the doctor and were found to have lead amounts in their blood that are high enough to cause at least some symptoms, such as irritability and concentration problems.

CDC researchers looked at 1994, the first year for which data was available, and 2009, the most recent year. Not all states reported data, but the results are believed to be nationally representative, Calvert said.

Although the national average in 2009 was 6 cases of lead poisoning per 100,000 adults, the rate was at or above 20 per 100,000 in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Kansas.

The types of industry in those states are believed to be an explanation. For example, Missouri is a traditional home of lead mining. Kansas produces lead-using storage batteries, like the kinds used in automobiles.

The research is being published this week in a CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 5 months ago

This reminds me of an incident I was told of years ago. A farmer's cattle began to mysteriously become sick, and a few of them died for no apparent reason.

The carcasses were sent to Kansas State University for analysis. When the results came back, it was: Acute lead poisoning.

Upon searching the field that the cattle had been in, a number of old lead acid batteries were found, and the cows had been licking them. Apparently they mistook them for salt, perhaps because of the taste.

In any case, it is always wise to keep old lead acid batteries safely away from children and animals.

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