An Indiana doctor is revealing that an alarming number of children visiting his pediatrics practice over the years have tested as having high levels of lead. And that’s not all: Dr. Robert Byrn of Muncie says they all have something in common – their parents work at the same factory.
Dr. Byrn says over the past five or ten years, he’s begun suspecting that there might be a link between the children in his office showing lead exposure. Whenever lead was detected, a routine panel of questions was asked, including things like how old the child’s home was, or their parents’ occupations. Over time it became clear that a trend was emerging: many of the children had parents who worked for Delaware County’s Exide Technologies, a maker of battery and charging solutions for a variety of industries that happens to recycle batteries at this facility, a process that involves pulling lead from spent lead-acid batteries.
The likeliest case is that Exide workers had been exposing their kids to lead by bringing it home on their clothing after their shifts. A former employee described the plant’s decontamination process to Indy’s ABC affiliate, Channel 6, saying they were required to shower three times per shift and then put the day’s work clothes in laundry bins before changing into clean clothes in a separate room. But besides the blood work being performed on children, further testing has also revealed higher levels of lead on walkways leaving the plant, as well as on the floor boards of the cars the workers drive.
For its part, Exide suggests its policies are sound and that workers are just needing to be “reeducated” on the proper way to exit the facility without bringing their work home with them.
The CDC says no level of lead exposure is safe for children, and that lead exposure in pregnant women can lead to prematurity and low birth weight as well as long term health problems. Exide says its working with state agencies on continued testing.