One of the reasons I started this research is because my husband and I have been talking about adding a new branch to our family tree, and it is a known fact that lead poisoning is very-very dangerous for children, born and unborn. So the second part is based on my rather successful detox efforts that I am sure many pregnant stained glass enthusiasts will appreciate. But honestly, it is for everyone. You cannot be too healthy!
There are really only two ways lead can get into our bodies. You can ingest it and you can inhale lead dust. You CANNOT get it through your skin. The particles are far too large to pass through the skin barrier. So, next time you watch those detox patch commercials that claim to draw heavy metals out through the skin of your feet, you can laugh at all the idiots buying it. Because it is scientifically as impossible for heavy metals to come out through skin, as it is to come in. Just so no one is offended – I was one of those idiots at one time! if you have open wounds on your skin – it is possible. So let’s start with laying down some rules:
- DO test your lead levels every 6 months. DO ask your doctor the actual number, not just if it is below normal, so you can see if it is going up and adjust your behavior accordingly.
Anything under 40 mcg/dl is considered OK, anything over is lead poisoning. I would start seriously worrying around 15. You do not want to wait until you have symptoms to start taking care of yourself. Just so you know, the average lead levels in general population are about 2.5 mcg/dl or lower. So anything higher means that you ARE getting overexposed. My current level is 6, which is not worrisome, but you get the idea. WATCH WATCH WATCH.
- Do not EVER bring any food or drink in the studio. Even if your hands are clean, there might be some lead dust floating around and getting on your food and into your drink. I have made that mistake and watched my lead levels skyrocket within months!
- Do not EVER touch your face or mouth when working. Refrain from smoking and using chap stick. Again, even if you think your hands are clean, your face and lips may have some lead residue on them, as well as your supposedly clean hands, your cigarettes and your chap stick.
- DO buy special de-leading soap for your workshop. You have to lather your hands for 20 seconds before washing off, or it will not work as well. I buy from my suppliers D&L Art Glass , but I also have seen it sold on Ebay, click here to see it. If you are serious about your safety, buy D-Lead shampoo and shower gel as well. It is not any more expensive than regular shampoo, and is sold by the gallon. I found some on Ebay, click here to see it.
- DO get out of your workshop clothes immediately after finishing your work. Keep and wash them separate, preferably with D-Lead detergent. I buy it on Amazon by the gallon. There are several different kinds. This one is OK for HE machines, which is awesome! Click here to see the product. You can also wash your respirator in this, because as it is hanging in your shop, it will collect some toxic dust on the inside. And then you put it on your face and take a nice deep breath…
- Think about other things you touch throughout the day. Do you bring your phone in the shop? If so, you are DEFINITELY getting some contamination from it. I use D-Lead wipes, if I do happen to grab it with dirty fingers, which I often have to. Customers call all the time and I do not like making them leave a message. Here is a link to some wipes you can use. Click here.
Now you have the best opportunity to inhale lead particles when you a) solder b) paint with lead-containing paints, especially if you are airbrushing. Also, wear a respirator when dry-sweeping the tables or floors in your workshop as you are getting some toxic particles airborne as you do it. Unless you have an industrial quality hood in your shop, you are advised to wear a respirator during these activities! Those tiny hobby fume extractors they sell have a range of about 4 inches. They are useless unless all you do is tiny suncatchers. Now I am guilty of not wearing a respirator at all, unless I was airbrushing or sandblasting until recently. As soon as I started, I saw a dramatic drop in my lead levels. It DOES matter.
- Do NOT try to use a fan to blow the fumes away from you. You are essentially creating a vortex. The vacuum that is created behind the fan from where the air is sucked in needs to be filled. The first thing it sucks in…you guessed it!... the fumes that have just been blown away. So you get an endless flow of harmful chemicals in your face. FANTASTIC!
Now I personally hate the stupid respirators, argh! I especially hate the reusable kind, they are rubber, very heavy and I feel like I am suffocating in them. So I use disposables. They are light, they feel breathable and you can reuse them many times before you actually have to dispose it. It also eliminates the issue of them getting so dirty that you have to wash them. When you solder the fumes you are getting are mostly flux, which is also extremely bad for you and you do not want to inhale that wonderful stuff either. But the flux fumes also may carry some lead particles up in the air. So when selecting a respirator, you must make sure it is good for both fumes and particulate matter. After much research, I have found two types that are equally good for both soldering and painting. They are both 3 M 8233 N100 and 8293 P100. 3M has excellent support that can also help you select a reusable mask with appropriate filters http://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/?WT.mc_id=www.3m.com/us
Ok, so let’s supposed you have been bad, like me. You have not observed all of the rules, because you are young and strong, and who cares!.... And then your blood tests comes back indicating that your lead levels are elevating. Uh-oh! You need to detox. Do not wait too long. I had 9 mcg/dl lead in my blood, which is way below what qualifies as poisoning. However, it rose from 7 from the previous year. Moreover, I found that I could possibly be pregnant. As exciting as that thought was, it suddenly hit me that whatever levels I have in my blood cannot possibly be good for the hypothetical baby.
I researched this subject so much that I can probably recite studies on the subject from memory at this point. But in summary, here is what I found. Women that have over 7 mcg/dl blood lead levels or more have a way higher risk of miscarriage AND neurological defects in their children. Here is a link to an article about it http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/jun/fetal-lead-exposure.
Women who have >10mcg/dl levels need to be removed from lead exposure COMPLETELY. If you are breastfeeding, the benefits still overweigh the risks, as long as your levels are below the 40 mcg lead poisoning. Apparently it does not transfer as easily through milk, as it does through blood. Here is some more info on that http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Lead-Screening-During-Pregnancy-and-Lactation
And you know what is funny – my doctor did not think it was a good idea to mention all that to a female of child-bearing age, just saying after every test – your bloodwork is within norm! You would think that your physician might be smart enough to see that you are taking pre-natal vitamins and obviously trying to conceive, but no, apparently those dots did not connect. So this is for all of your gals!
Here is my tried and true advice for detox and safer practices for pregnant and soon-to-be-pregnant ladies who also happen to love their stained glass craft!
- First start observing EVERY rule from the first part of this article.
- Be even MORE cautious. Wear a shower cap on your hair when soldering, painting, sweeping, sand-carving or any other activity that creates any kind of dust. We do not always have time to wash our hair every day with the D-Lead shampoo. That will save you the trouble.
- Wear gloves when soldering or leading – that will prevent any small amounts of lead and other substances from getting in from small cuts that we all have!
- When painting or soldering, open windows and do not remove the respirator for at least 10 min after you have finished if you plan to remain in the studio. It may take some time for the fumes to settle or get out of the room.
- Buy OSHA approved sticky mats to put at the door of your workshop. They trap any debris and dust from your shoes as you are leaving to make sure you are not bringing any of that stuff in your house/car, etc.
- LEAVE YOUR FOOD AND CELLPHONE OUTSIDE THE SHOP. I cannot stress that enough!
- Start detoxing! The half-life of lead in your blood is about 25 days (the amount of time it will take HALF of the lead to get out of your system). So that is not so bad. You can start drinking some detox teas religiously, they do work, if slowly. They are nasty, bleh!!! Pinch your nose, and drink it. Drink it, I said! J
- We have all heard of the wondrous qualities of garlic. Among its main anti-vampire use, it is also a fantastic way to detox! There was a study that showed that garlic is better than RX meds in treating lead poisoning. They both do the job, except garlic does it with no side-effects! In the study people took 1000mg capsule of garlic extract 3 times a day, which is what I do now! Once you get down to desired levels, you can drop it down to one capsule, because garlic also contains some substance in it (the name of which I honestly do not remember!) which has ability of binding lead before it gets in your digestive system. So that will also safeguard if you against at least some lead you might have accidentally ingested! You can find the details of the afore-mentioned study here http://naturalsociety.com/garlic-better-rx-meds-detoxing-lead-body/
- Now unfortunately, in addition to being in your blood lead can get in your bones and teeth after consistent exposure replacing calcium. That would take much-much more time to detox from. The lead in the bones is what pregnant mommies should be worried about, because when there is not enough available calcium, the baby, in simple terms, will draw what it needs from the bones, getting lead out together with it. And that is bad news. So what you can do is make sure you get enough calcium in your diet. Do not try to get it all out of supplements as your body is not able to absorb large amounts of it at a time. Either eat calcium-rich foods, or if you must take a supplement, try to space the doses far from each other to increase absorption rate.
Now I am no doctor, but I am a stained glass artist with a lot of experience, and I am hoping to be a mommy some day, so I care. If you have a high lead level, please talk to your doctor about it. Above are just some things that YOU can do. I have gotten my lead level from 9 mcg to 6 mcg/dl in 2 weeks by sticking to these rules, no fancy drugs!!! And it is continuing to fall. So all of this is confirmed to work. You do not have to quit your hobby if you start tracking high lead levels. Yes, most of these rules are a pain, but once you start, it is easy to get used to them! HAPPY STAINED GLASS CRAFTING TO ALL!