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Irish Medical Times article by Dr Stewart (as published online by IMT website August 15th 2019) 

Please note: This article by Dr Stewart was originally published in the Irish Medical Times printed newsletter and also to their website in August 2019. )

The IMT newsletter has restricted access and is intended for physicians and medical professionals only, and would not be generally available for public viewing.

However Dr Stewart feels that this information is important for public knowledge also, and has now copied his article from the IMT website in full below.

The burden of lead exposure

By Contributor 15th August 2019

Dr T E Gabriel Stewart, a physician with a special interest in heavy metal detoxification,

addresses the serious health consequences and disease burden of lead exposure

In mid-April of this year, (2019) The Irish Times newspaper and several online publications printed articles, reportedly sourced by using the Freedom of Information Act, reporting on the exceptionally high levels of lead in drinking water in some areas of Ireland. The articles stated that in some parts of the country, the levels of lead were up to 15 times the legal limit.

Dr Stewart- IMT article.png

It is extremely important to also acknowledge that there are significant and major health implications regarding this situation. In 2018, a report on the World Health Organization (WHO) website announced categorically that there is “no” safe level for lead in the human body.

High absorption rate in children

So while Ireland may have set a ‘legal’ limit, there is in fact “no safe limit”.

The WHO also stated that young children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning because they absorb four to five times as much ingested lead as adults from a given source.

Once lead enters the body, it is distributed to organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. The body stores lead in the teeth and bones where it accumulates over time.

For childbearing adults, lead stored in bone may be remobilised into the blood during pregnancy, thus exposing the foetus. Lead exposure has very serious consequences for our health.

These chronic everyday low-dose exposures at levels too low to cause any obvious symptoms, and previously considered safe, were now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems.

In particular, lead can affect children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural changes such as reduced attention span and increased antisocial behaviour, and reduced educational attainment.

This is quite unsettling because in recent years, Irish primary schools have seen their needs for additional classroom special needs assistants (SNAs), to help teachers with children who have neurological and behavioural issues rise significantly. Lead exposure also causes anaemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioural effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.

There is no known safe blood lead concentration. Even blood lead concentrations as low as 5µg/dL, once thought to be “safe” may be associated with decreased intelligence in children, behavioural difficulties and learning problems. Setting a legal limit is only a policy tool. There are no safe limits.

Link to Alzheimer’s disease

There are also recent studies showing links between early lead exposure and the later life development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Encouragingly, the successful phasing out of leaded fuel in most countries, together with other lead control measures, has resulted in a significant decline in population level blood lead concentrations. However, there is still a burden of disease from lead exposure. In the US, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated that in 2016 lead exposure accounted for 540,000 deaths and 13.9 million years of healthy life lost (disability-adjusted life years [DALYs]) worldwide due to long-term effects on health.

The highest burden was in low- and middle-­income countries. IHME also estimated that in 2016, lead exposure accounted for 63.8 per cent of the global burden of idiopathic develop­mental intellec­tual disability, 3 per cent of the global burden of ischaemic heart disease and 3.1 per cent of the global burden of stroke.

Direct correlation to CVD

Also in 2018, The Lancet published two studies in relation to lead exposure and its direct correlation with greatly increased risk of cardio­vascular disease (CVD).

Lead is a cumulative toxin, so even with tiny trace amounts, they will be absorbed and build up over time in the human body, and can lead to a wide range of serious and negative health conditions.

The Lancet studies’ highlights

It noted that a previous study estimated that the fraction of all-cause mortality in the USA alone attributable to lead is 18 per cent, accounting for 412,000 deaths per year.

The report stated: “A key conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that lead has a much greater effect on cardiovascular mortality than previously recognised.

“Lead exposure is a risk factor for CVD mortality.

“Chronic exposure to lead caused hypertension and enhanced the development of atherosclerosis.

“The time has come to end inattention to the contribution of pollution to mortality from non-­communicable diseases and to thoroughly re­-­examine lead’s role in changing global patterns of cardio­vascular disease.”

The Lancet also states that reducing the amount of lead in blood might cut a patient’s risk of CVD mortality. The only known effective way to do this is with chelation therapy and indeed The Lancet paper acknowledges this, and refers to the TACT (Trial to assess Chelation Therapy) which had long been called for by those using chelation in private practice for many years.

The results which were extremely positive, although unusually it was not widely reported back then and even criticised in a few online editorials. In that trial 18 per cent of participants overall had positive outcomes and most particularly for the patients with diabetes, who made up approximately one-third of the 1,708 TACT participants, had a 41 per cent overall reduction in the risk of any cardiovascular event; a 40 per cent reduction in the risk of death from heart disease, nonfatal stroke, or nonfatal heart attack; a 52 per cent reduction in recurrent heart attacks; and a 43 per cent reduction in death from any cause.

The TACT study team also looked at the impact of taking high-dose vitamins and minerals in addition to chelation therapy.

They found chelation plus high-dose vitamins and minerals produced the greatest reduction in risk of cardiovascular events versus placebo. However, for some, these outstanding results do not warrant making Chelation Therapy a part of standard mainstream care at present, so now yet another trial is presently underway at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — TACT 2. It is easily anticipated positive results again, are expected by many to be the final nail in the coffin of the deniers of the hard facts so far.

The simple facts:

• Lead is a known cause of CVD;

• Everyone has been exposed to lead toxicity at varying levels;

• Chelation is still the gold standard worldwide for removing lead from the body;

• Removing the lead and other toxic metals reduces the risk of their impact on people’s bodies’ health.

However, at present in Ireland the main systems of medical care do not even consider lead exposure or toxicity when dealing with patients presenting with a wide range of, now known to be related health conditions, except perhaps in extremely rare cases when patients presenting with acute lead poisoning symptoms or known exposures.

A probable carcinogen

Lead is also classified as a probable carcinogen, a cancer-causing element.

Again in 2018 another significant study was published, available on PubMed, which showed that urinary lead levels were an independent predictor of cancer mortality observed in the US general population. Given that Ireland is now ranked with the third highest cancer rates in the world, is it not time to also consider our excessive exposure to lead as perhaps one of the factors that may be contributing to this?

What is the legal limit of lead?

The legal limit of lead in drinking water in Europe has been gradually reduced, from 50µg per litre in 1988 to 10µg per litre in December 2013 (source Health Service Executive [HSE]).

People born before 1988 will have had a greater exposure to lead. The most likely causes for this were unmonitored drinking water, the widespread use of lead-based petrol, lead-based paints and other environmental factors as well as in many occupational situations.

In relation to exposures from our drinking water, much of the blame has been attributed to older houses with lead piping, which was widely used up to the mid-70s.

However, it is not just the old lead pipes when it comes to public water being polluted. Studies have now shown that even some PVC pipes, which actually use lead as a binding agent, can also leach lead into the water and it can also come from popular tap fittings.

While the HSE and also national water utility Irish Water online advisory is to flush the taps a little before drinking or using for food preparation and cooking, to hopefully reduce the levels of lead, the same reports also warn that boiling the water can increase the lead levels in the water. So this could mean that all hot drinks and foods cooked in our tap water will more than likely have elevated levels of lead.

Dealing with the lead in water within homes is not within the remit of Irish Water, as it is just responsible for bringing the supply safely to the property boundary. However, there is a lack of public awareness to the risks for those living in older properties with lead pipes. Perhaps it is time to make this another factor (like the Building Energy Rating) for reporting during the sale of a property. Ireland could also learn from the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan USA, where the city population was exposed to greatly increased levels of lead by changes in their drinking waters main supply in 2013 and it caused a major health problem. In this situation, even the Center for Disease Control in the US is recommending chelation therapy for children with blood levels above a certain amount, but thankfully it appears so far that no children have reached that level.

However, the situation there is still evolving and in just the last month, Federal Judges have now ruled that the many thousands of people affected by the water crisis and who are suffering related health problems, can now sue the Environmental Protection Agency.

Addressing heavy metals

In Europe, there are now several agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other groups addressing heavy metals and their effects on human and environmental health and a major conference took place in Berlin, Germany last month. The International Conference on Metal Detoxification — Berlin 2019 took place from June 10 to 13.

The conference brought together researchers from the fields of metal biology and medical geology to showcase the latest developments and address global challenges. The goals were to launch successful collaborative projects and bring science closer to clinical practice and to inform the public about the exposure of heavy metals from food, soil, water and air from natural sources or pollution. The conference was not only the beginning of an international, scientific collaboration, but also offered both doctors and non-medical practitioners access to the latest findings, as well as a platform to exchange experiences.

One of the sponsors of this conference was the European Center for Environmental Medicine, which is a nonprofit project engaged in establishing Clinical Environmental Medicine in Europe.

It is committed to promote the availability of examinations of toxic burdens for all patients whenever a correlation between chronic diseases is suspected. Accompanied by public awareness, this should lead to recognition of a medical specialisation in environmental medicine and therapies based on the detoxification.

Dr T. E. Gabriel Stewart is a physician who practices complementary medicine and has special interest in heavy metal detoxification, chelation therapy, nutrition, the circulatory disorders, and the chronic degenerative diseases.

This article was taken from Dr Stewarts original report, which featured on his website in June 2019, and which also has all of the corresponding supportive information links to reports from government agencies, international bodies, and other official third party sources. 

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