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Lead Poisoning

by Ronald Ronniel Wren

There is no proper way to explain how vital "lead poisoning" is without causing alarm. I am writing this in the hopes that prisoner advocates will step forward and explore the lead poisoning problem in the institutions in which they are presently incarcerated. If there are any unanswered questions after you read this, please contact me.

My intentions are to give you enough information to investigate the possibility of your institution poisoning prisoners, when they know or should have known that lead plumbing is installed in that institution, yet they have done nothing to correct the problem since 1974. If the prison that you are incarcerated in was built before 1974 then there is a 100% chance that it contains lead in the plumbing system. However, if this briefing is followed closely, you can file with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Lead poisoning is a time bomb in any correctional institution in the US because it goes undetected. Those placed in authority to run a check and balance are directly tied in with those in authority to keep us confined in these hell holes; therefore, no real concern is shown towards this issue.

My suggestions are to obtain some form of support on the outside before taking any corrective action because the prison officials will surely lay down the normal rules in placing you on immediate transfer and segregation status. Play it safe and contact your outside connections for support with the facts your investigation turns up.

If you contact the local media, be sure that town, city or county does not supply water to your institution; if so, go outside that area. On the other hand, if your institution has its own treatment plant and water tower, go for it. This is a hot issue and it is a very deadly issue. Prisoners have been dying at alarming rates at this institution (Galesburg, IL) from cancer; maybe the water caused it, who is the wiser? Even though I cannot prove that these deaths are a result of lead poisoning through the water system, I can prove that for the past four years lead has been over the EPA standards by at least 31%.

Lead is found in the pipes of the institution you are incarcerated in through the water system that pumps the water (water station) to the institution. These pipes could be lead, or welded together with lead rods. However, the contents of lead are usually found in hot water. This is because hot water helps the flow of lead in its transition into the institution through the plumbing system. If your wash basin shows an off white color that cannot be scrubbed off with cleaning supplies, or if a green substance is evident, you equally have problems with an overdose of lime.

By lead rods being used to weld pipes together, and a vast amount of institutions being built before 1974, the flow of lead is astronomical compared to the requirements of the EPA. According to the EPA, the standard lead level is 15 parts per billion. Federal Water Pollution Control Act , 33 U.S.C. § 1251, et seq, but see 33 U.S.C. § 1251(g). Lead is also contained in storage batteries, enamels, glazed pottery, lead glass, lead arsenate, tetraethyl lead (used in gasoline compound additives), welding and riveting. The water may even be stored in lead water towers or containers used to boil hot water, or any other source where the hot water is boiled. The treatment plant, whether institution, town, city or county owned may be the major source if your area has a high lead content of over 15 parts per billion.

In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8.0%.

When water stands in lead water pipes or plumbing systems containing lead several hours or overnight the lead may dissolve into your drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the afternoon, can contain fairly high levels of lead.

Convicts are being exposed to lead poisoning at alarming rates due to many prisons being built in the early 1900's, when mostly lead pipes were used. Lead poisoning results when excessive amounts of lead are absorbed into the body. This excessive absorption rate slows up many normal chemical processes in the metabolic system because the enzyme systems (speeding up specific chemical reactions) are inhibited. This condition of poisoning or intoxication is also known as "plumbism" (lead poisoning) or "saturnism" (chronic lead poisoning). Medical authorities differ as to what constitutes an excessive amount of lead in the human system. Some authorities maintain that amounts in excess of 0.08 milligrams of the metal in 100 cubic centimeters of whole blood suggest lead poisoning. Other authorities maintain that amounts up to 0.10 milligrams per cubic centimeter of whole blood are normal.

Any lead absorbed in your body is generally deposited in your bones, where it is retained without perceptible harm to the body. Excessive quantities of lead cannot be absorbed and stored in a relatively safe manner. The excess metal then circulates in the bloodstream and produces serious disabilities such as acidosis (an abnormal condition in the body). Dehydration or starvation tend to mobilize or remove this lead from the bones into the bloodstream, producing lead poisoning.

In addition to lead encephalopathy (a disease of the brain), in a few cases lead poisoning usually produces some or all of the following symptoms in adults: colic (severe, recurring abdominal pains); wrist drop resulting from a direct effect on the extensor muscles of the forearm and from paralysis of the radial nerve controlling the extensor muscles; weakness, anorexia (loss of appetite); loss of weight, constipation; painful joints with rigidity and cramps; yellow and jaundiced complexion; nausea, fatigue; nervousness and giddiness.

Adult lead poisoning is of two types: acute (short term over- exposure) and chronic (long term over-exposure), which is vital. Chronic lead poisoning is sometimes also called plumbism. However, the two terms are not mutually exclusive; acute symptoms may occur in persons newly exposed or in someone chronically exposed who absorbs increased amounts of lead, thereby causing the sudden appearance of symptoms. D. Poskanzer, Heavy Metals , in Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine , 1274, 1276 (10th Ed. Petersdorf, et al., 1983).

As of 1985 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends initial screening for elevated levels of erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP) (a mature red blood cell that normally does not have a nucleus, very small, which carries oxygen to the body tissues).

The kidneys are damaged when large amounts of lead are absorbed. This is irreversible. Lead induced kidney injury (lead nephropathy) results in the abnormal presence of glucose, amino acids, albumin (any of the group of proteins found in milk, egg, muscle, blood and in many vegetable tissues and fluids), and red blood cells in the urine or elevated levels of substances normally found in the urine, such as phosphates. Elevated excretion of a substance in the kidneys may result in a lowered level of the substance in the blood. On the other hand, substances normally removed from the blood by the kidneys, particularly nitrogenous compounds and urate (salts or uric acid), may accumulate in the blood, excessive uric acid in the blood may result in gout, which is otherwise rare in cases of chronic kidney failure. If exposure continues long enough, the kidneys may become greatly reduced in size. Hammond, Exposure of Humans to Lead , 17 Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology 207, 208 (1977).

If you or any other prisoners have the following symptoms: Severe abdominal pains, weakness and fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, painful joints, headaches, inability to sleep, irritability, nervousness, depression, giddiness, confusion, lack of muscular coordination, visual disturbances, nausea and vomiting, metallic taste in mouth, bluish line on gums at base of teeth, it is highly recommended that you consult with a doctor for further testing.

Treatment of lead poisoning consists of firstly removing the victim from further exposure to lead and secondly, if necessary, administering chelating agents. At the present time, three chelating agents are in general for use in treating lead poisoning. CaNa2EDTA (Calcium disodium edetate, trade name Versenate), BAL (dimeercaprol, trade name British antilewisite), and d-penicillamine (PCA, tradename Cuprimine). Of these three, Versenate and Cuprimine are capable of being used alone, although curpimine is classified as an investigational drug when used to treat lead poisoning, while BAL is used only in combination with Versenate and only in serious cases.

Even though I have no proof of lead being able to surface in your hot pot, if you clean it and there is a hard crusty substance left that you have problems getting off, it could be lead and you should make it a point to contact the EPA. Make sure when you write them that you give them the facts to conduct tests on. For example, if you know of a water outlet or drinking outlet where water tastes unusual, direct the EPA's attention to those outlets as well as the cells and not the administration building.

As stated earlier, I am incarcerated but you should have means of writing. I assure you I will contact you at the earliest possible convenience. [ Editors Note : Illinois does not allow prisoners to directly correspond with each other. ]
Ronald R. Wren # N36018
P.O. Box 1000
Ina, IL 62846-1000

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