The Skeleton

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Bone Lead Affects Life-long Health

95% of the body burden of lead is actually in the skeleton, where it has a half-life of 20 to 30 years (compared to around 30 days in blood).  The damage done is felt both in the bones themselves and throughout the body when lead is released into the blood and soft tissues.

Lead Stunts Growth, Increases Fractures

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Lead causes the signals to the bones that they are mature to be sent prematurely, before the natural growth process is complete.  As a result, there is a loss of 2 cm of height for every 10 mg/dL of blood lead. 

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Bones never achieve their potential peak density.  There is less bone at maturity so that when bone begins to wear away  bone fractures can occur earlier and more frequently.

Lead Impairs the Natural Healing Process

Lead interferes with the process of  building new bone and knitting the new to the old after a fracture. 

bulletFirst, lead causes faulty bone formation. 
bulletThen, the “maturity signal” once again is sent prematurely, so the bone “thinks” it is done before real healing has taken place.  The fracture heals imperfectly, and takes longer.

Lead Contributes to Osteoporosis

bulletBones regenerate themselves throughout our lives through the complementary action of osteoclasts, which take away bone, and osteoblasts, which create new bone. 
bulletThe process allows the body  to access the calcium in bones when it is needed and keep bones strong with new cells, while continually balancing the depletion with new bone. 
bulletLead depresses the activity of both osteoblasts and osteoclasts, but the impact is much greater on the osteoblasts.  So bones suffer because old bone is not making way for new bone to the degree that it should, and the old bone that is taken away  is not balanced by an adequate formation of new bone. 

Lead Comes Back Into the Blood

bulletWhen the body senses that it needs more calcium, such as during pregnancy, a message is sent to increase the action of the osteoclasts.  But the body cannot distinguish between calcium and lead.  So when the osteoclasts go to work, lead is released into the blood stream. 
bulletDuring pregnancy, the lead in the blood travels to the fetus where it begins to poison yet again. 
bulletDuring menopause the same process occurs; research tells us that blood lead increases by  between 2 mg/dL and 5 mg/dL.

Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning 

Committed to ending childhood lead poisoning in Monroe County by 2010

For more information, contact:  pbrantingham@leadsafeby2010.org