Thursday, January 28, 2016
Doctors Perspective The dangers of lead poisoning

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

The city of Flint in Michigan is experiencing a water crisis. Children there have elevated levels of lead because of the water. The question becomes how much damage will the elevated levels of lead cause?
We have come a long way in our understanding of lead poisoning. When I was a medical student in Brooklyn in the early 1970s, house paint was filled with lead. The most common admitting diagnosis to Kings County Hospital was lead poisoning.
The scientific name for lead poisoning is plumbism. It was not unusual to receive a phone call about an admission saying that you were going to be receiving a plumb.
Lead poisoning affects many parts of the body. The most serious effects are related to damage to the nervous system. However, lead can also affect kidney function, cause anemia and be deposited in the bones.
When I was a medical student, the criteria for treatment was related to the lead level. Every child over 40 micrograms per deciliter got treated. If they were over 60 or had significant symptoms, they were treated as an emergency.
It took years for us to control lead poisoning in inner city housing. Part of that was related to the fact that new unleaded paint covered old paint containing lead. When the paint chipped both leaded and unleaded paint were in the chips. Lead tastes sweet so children ate it.
Lead can be picked up in other ways. It can be in the air near lead smelting plants. Lead can be in the water in lead pipes. Some believe the fall of the Roman Empire was because the well-to-do developed lead poisoning from their lead pipes.
Once we got lead poisoning under control we realized our cutoff number of 40 was too high. Significant damage occurred between 25 and 40 so we lowered the criteria. Anyone over 25 was considered to have lead poisoning. Treatment for the lower levels consisted of finding the cause and removing it so no further damage could occur.
Over time we realized that minor effects could still be seen in children ages 10 to 25, so we lowered our significant number even further to 10. We then lowered it to 5. Today, 5 micrograms per deciliter is the cutoff to consider someone as having lead poisoning. The effects between 5 and 10 are minimal, if any.
The 5 micrograms per deciliter figure is what is used as the cutoff in Flint. Before the water became an issue about 3% of children had levels higher than 5. Recent studies show that the number has doubled to 6%. This means that 94% of the children there still have levels below 5. It also means that the levels we are seeing are not likely to cause serious, long-term issues.
Most likely there will still be some effects and, for that reason, what the city and state did should be condemned. In any case, we need to be thankful the problem was found in time to prevent what could have been a much more serious issue.

Free Alzheimers program

The Alzheimers Association Delaware Valley Chapter and Laurel Centenary Methodist Church will present a series of free programs to the public.
The following programs will be offered at the church at 6:30 p.m. on the following dates:
Tuesday, Feb. 2 - Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimers The Basics
Monday, Feb. 8 - Legal and Financial Issues
Tuesday, Feb. 16 - Effective Communication
Tuesday, Feb. 23 - Understanding Dementia Related Behaviors
To register, call 800-272-3900 prior to the date of the presentation.

Lunch Bunch Lecture

Delaware Hospice Center in Milford will hold a Lunch Bunch Lecture,

Communication Tips for Improving Your Relationships, on Friday, Feb. 5. Lunch, which is $5 per person, is from noon to 12:30 p.m. The free presentation is from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dr. Judy Pierson, clinical psychologist, will discuss how to communicate effectively so that we have healthy and fulfilling relationships with our loved ones. In Communication Miracles for Couples, author Jonathan Robinson provides simple effective tips for improving communication in any relationship. Come discover how to move away from arguing and blaming and toward cooperation and lasting harmony.
Registration by Feb. 4 is required as seating capacity is limited. Register by contacting Michele August at 302-746-4503 or email

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital to hold Diabetes Education program

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a four-session diabetes educational program, The Diabetes Connection, on Feb. 2, 9, 16, and 23 from 9:30 11:30 a.m. The cost of the program may be reimbursable by insurance.
As a person with diabetes, Nanticoke Health Services can be part of your healthcare team to help teach you the self-care skills needed to keep you on track. Our four-session diabetic program includes weekly education sessions in a group setting.One family member or significant other is welcome to attend as a passenger on your diabetic road trip.
Program Schedule:
What is Diabetes? Physiology and Self-Care Skills Review
Meal Planning, Eating Out, Reading Food Labels
Self Blood Glucose Monitoring & Management, Sick Day Rules, Traveling
Medications Used to Manage Diabetes
Stress Management Coping with Diabetes & Lifestyle Changes
Summary & Course Evaluations, Goal Setting
Pre-registration is required prior to attending classes. To register and to obtain additional information regarding the course, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals Diabetes Education Department at 302-629-6611, extension 2446.
Nanticoke Health Services includes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and the Nanticoke Physician Network. Nanticoke Health Services has been named one of the Top 150 Places to Work in Healthcare by Beckers Hospital Review for five years in a row. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital holds a Level III Trauma Center certification and is the only hospital on the Delmarva Peninsula to receive a 4-star rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nanticoke is nationally certified by the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center and is a Gold Plus Award performer according to the American Heart/American Stroke Associations Get With The Guidelines program.Nanticokes Cancer Care Services holds Accreditation with Commendation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and is a member of the Association of Community Cancer Centers. Nanticokes medical staff includes over 155 active and community affiliate health care providers practicing in 40 different specialties.

Autographed jersey raffle

A friend of Nanticoke Health Services Foundation has generously donated an autographed Washington Redskins Alfred Morris football jersey to be used as a raffle item to benefit Nanticoke Health Services.
The raffle drawing will be held on Friday, Feb. 5, outside the food court at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. Raffle tickets are available for $5 a ticket or $10 for three tickets in the Human Resources Department or through the Foundation Department.
Tickets can also be purchased online at or by calling the Foundation at 536-5390.