As blood travels through the bones, lead from the blood is deposited into the bone tissue. Lead blocks your body’s natural process of making new blood cells. Lead also competes with calcium in the bone. Calcium is released from bone tissue as our bodies need it. If lead is there instead of calcium, then lead is released into the blood. The bones and teeth store 95% of the lead in the body. Lead can be stored in bone tissue for more than 30 years. When the body is under stress, lead is released from the bone tissue into the blood. Your body is under stress whenever you get sick, are overactive, become pregnant, or are under a lot of pressure. If the lead goes from the bone back into the blood, it causes problems all over again. Lead that stays in your body is called a “body burden.” The more lead you are exposed to, the higher your lead body burden is. The lead body burden is not easy to measure because it is mostly found in your bone tissue. Samples of bone tissue are difficult to get. A child’s tooth can be tested for lead when it falls out. The tested tooth can tell you how much lead is in the child’s bones; that is, the child’s lead body burden. A special X-ray machine can measure body burden. But, there are very few of these machines available. This X-ray fluorescence machine measures lead in bone, where up to 95% of the body’s lead is stored. A number of union construction workers who attended a 1990 national health & safety conference participated in a bone lead screening. The screening showed that these workers, who are often exposed to lead paint during renovation, have much higher bone leads than people who have no occupational exposure.
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