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Lead poisoning often confused for autism

December 11, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
You might have removed all the toys recalled because of lead paint. But there still may be lead around the house, and when kids get into it they could get sick. Many times, parents don't know the signs. One family was told their son had autism, but a blood test revealed his toys were to blame.An impromptu kiss from their son goes a long way for Noah's parents. Problems for Noah began at nine-months-old. He was often sick and out of control.

"We couldn't go to the grocery store, church -- really anywhere due to the screaming," said Rob Breakiron.

Noah was diagnosed with autism. But then the underlying problem was discovered -- lead poisoning. Noah had seven-times the upper limit of lead in his body.

"We were shocked," said Rob's wife Lisa.

"We were absolutely shocked," said Rob. "Like, 'Lead poisoning?' That can't be right."

They couldn't pinpoint how the lead got in Noah's body. But now his parents believe it might have been from his toys.

"I can tell you when he was a toddler, he was always chewing on stuff," said Rob.

Chealation treatments have reduced Noah's lead levels and have made a huge impact.

"It was really powerful and amazing for us to watch. It was like literally watching a miracle right in front of your eyes," said Rob.

Pediatrician David Berger is Noah's doctor.

"We have a child here who is virtually indistinguishable from his peers, and that's certainly not what he was a year or two years ago," said Dr. Berger.

Dr. Berger says a developing brain is much more sensitive to lead exposure. He says universal testing for lead in young kids should be done. It's a blood test doctors stopped doing routinely 10 years ago, but one he says parents should ask for.

"This can cause significant long-term problems, and it's worthwhile checking for," said Dr. Berger. "With Noah's level of lead poisoning, if that would have continued, he could have died."

Today, you can't tell that Noah's body is in a battle to remove the lead. He just seems like a typical four year old -- and that's good news.

In October alone, there were 27 million lead related recalls of toys and jewelry items. Because the symptoms of autism and lead poisoning mimic each other, Noah's parents say they hope other parents will get the right diagnosis for their kids.

Noah is now making developmental strides beyond expectations.


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