Health Works: The dangers of lead in the body can last generations

In Health Works, a look at the effects of lead on the human body.

In Health Works, amid the flint water crisis, what you need to understand about lead and why - even after the problem is fixed, the risk can carry on for generations. There's no safe level of lead, that's why so many are so worried about lead in Flint's water supply. Dangers of lead have been known for decades.

"Lead is a heavy metal mimics calcium in the body," said Dr. Dana Dollinoy. "It goes into soft tissue and eventually bone.  Bone is a long term storage depot for lead." 

That means for a baby girl exposed to lead, if it's stored in her bones, 20 years later it can resurface when she's pregnant.

"As the individual ages when you have periods of physical stress such as pregnancy the lead can be remobilized out of the bone back into the blood," Dollinoy said.

Dollinoy studies the effects of lead on children and adults at the University of Michigan school of public health.

As nervous many are about going near the Flint water right now, there is some reassuring research.

"One of the good things about bathing in water exposure is that lead (organic lead that kind that’s in water in Flint) is not readily absorbed in the skin, so that’s one positive aspect," she said.

Children are most at risk because of how lead exposure can effect a developing brain, leading to behavioral problems and lower IQ.

That's why diet is so important.

"You definitely want to eat a balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables," said Dollinoy. "Because these are natural sources of antioxidants and methodones and the vitamins that we need and can help outcompete for lead. That's a great No. 1 step."


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