Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why my generation can learn

This article sheds some new light on my dad's flat denial to my assertions that attaching a document to an email is easy (and why my mom hasn't had any trouble with the same):

Old Recipes Are Not The Best

The author, an experienced metalworker with a mind I respect, had a number of things to say that I think I really needed to hear.  The closing quote, by pediatrician Wilbur Pan, M.D., Ph.D., really made me sit up and think:

I can put some numbers on the hazards of lead exposure. It’s not so much for the worker, but for children that they may come into contact with the lead particles that are carried out from the workplace.

In my day job I’m a pediatrician, and so lead toxicity is something I’m very familiar with. At lead levels of 10 micrograms/dL, a 5 year old will start losing IQ points. Doing the calculations for a typical 5 year old’s weight and figuring out the blood volume, that’s only 144 micrograms, or 5 millionths of an ounce of lead that kid has to swallow before his IQ starts to take a hit. Each 5 millionths of an ounce of lead will knock off about 5 IQ points.

This is an additive effect: every additional 5 millionths of an ounce of lead will knock off an additional 5 IQ points. So saying that you’re not going to worry about the additional small level of lead that you may be exposed to doesn’t make sense. It would have to be an incredibly small amount of lead to come in under that 144 microgram level. And again, this is an additive effect. Even if you only brought home 50 micrograms of lead dust on your clothes from a session at the gun range, after three trips, you’ve hit that 144 microgram level.

Other things associated with lead exposure: hyperactivity, failure to graduate high school, reading disability, delinquency, and hearing deficits. After 360 micrograms of lead ingestion in that 5 year old kid, anemia starts to kick in.

The usual exposure source for lead for kids is lead paint. But as the old housing stock either gets torn down for new construction, or increased awareness of lead paint has kicked in and more people are painting over or decontaminating their old houses, it seems that these days if kids are going to pick up lead, it’s from contaminated dirt. That would include dirt contaminated with lead particles carried away from the workplace, or a gun range.

I grew up doing some shooting, but not as much as my brothers & dad.  Leaded gasoline was phased out when I was a small child, and lead paint hasn't ever really been part of my environment.  But knowing this, now, I am going to be uber-careful when coming back from target practice, and will be sure to keep shooting jackets, et al, well-cleaned.

The dangers of lead may be mostly specters from generations past, but that doesn't mean that we should allow understanding of its toxicity fade as well.  Keep your children safe!

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