Lead's Effect May Last LIFETIMES (plural)March 21, 2016
Lead’s Effect May Last Lifetimes
Published: March 21, 2016
Reference: Science News 2016
, Translational Psychiatry
The recent controversy about lead in Flint, Michigan has raised the topic of lead poisoning again. Lead removal from America has been one of the public health victories of the last century. We have gotten it out of our lead pipes, our house paint, our gasoline. It was only 1996 that lead was finally banned from gasoline. But did you know that it persists still in chocolate
? In Nigeria, gasoline still has lead in it, and chocolate from Nigeria has up to 460 times the lead
in it compared to the cocoa bean. Hence, eating many chocolate products gives children more lead than California
says is safe.
Now, we are beginning to understand just how lead does its dirty work. It’s half life in blood is only about 30 days, but in your bone and teeth, where most goes, it hangs around for 25 years. Guilarte, in a study
published last year in Translational Psychiatry, showed that baby rats fed tiny amounts of lead lost critical neurons in their brains that are essential for attention and memory, and gained dopamine receptors, in a pattern that fits with schizophrenia. They hypothesize that lead does its damage by replacing zinc. Zinc’s role in the cell is to help switch-proteins fold properly to turn on and turn off DNA. Lead replaces zinc but doesn’t let the switches happen. Jacqueline Ordemann
of Bates College proposed in the Journal Metallomics this year, that lead affects the switches in our brains that affect our sensitivity to schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons, three brain diseases that have increased dramatically in the last century. Another author, Ruden
, published a report in Scientific Reports in January this year showing that lead affects methyl groups on DNA in an atypical fashion. Methyl groups on DNA are how we turn off and on DNA replications. That is the means by which lead poisoning can be passed on to subsequent generations, through abnormal methylation of DNA, and subsequent altered copying of the DNA code. Ruden compares our DNA to being the hardware of life, but methylation is the software that teaches the cell how to utilize the messages on the DNA. If lead messes that up, it is possible that the effect will last generations. To prove that, one would have to get a population exposed, and not exposed and follow it for generations. That is isn’t going to happen.
It is possible to pull lead out of the body, but not easily from the brain. Lead is not water soluble, so it gets soaked up into fat tissue. That’s what the brain is. And each cell in the brain is shrink wrapped with other cells, called glia, that make an added barrier to removing lead. So little lead equalizes across that extra barrier that once lead is in you, it’s there to stay, at least in your brain. We may be able to remove it from your body fat, your bone marrow, or other body tissues, but your brain seems to be quite resistant.
Now that we understand some of the mechanisms of lead toxicity, it is incumbent on us to avoid the stuff rather than wait for more convincing research.
will work for me? I’m helpless with chocolate. I love the stuff. Knowing what I know about lead, now, gives me resolve to avoid it until I see better evidence that the lead has been cleaned up. Consumerlabs rates different chocolate sources for lead levels. I have chelated about 100 people in my practice for lead exposure and find that removing it improves thyroid function, white counts, concentration. And looking around my house, I found lead pellets for my air rifle, sitting on a shelf. I haven’t used them for years, but there they were, sitting on my shelf.
- Lead is a normal micronutrient needed for human metabolism. T or F
False. Go back to square one and read the article. It’s a toxin, through and through.
- We have banned most sources of lead in America over a hundred years ago. T or F
False. We got it out of gasoline only as of 1996, and many houses still have an undercoat of lead paint and our nations’ water supply comes through many pipes with lead, even though lead pipes were banned years ago.
- Lead alters the DNA in our cells, making for abnormal interpretation of the message on the DNA. T or F
- Lead lingers a long time in bones and teeth. T or F
True. Maybe as long as 25 years, or longer in brains.
- Chocolate has lead in it. T or F
True. I weep, I mourn, I deny, but it’s true. I’ve heard rumor that Lindt chocolate doesn’t. Nigeria has leaded gasoline, and that may be the source.