Lead Toxicity is a Hyperobject

What is everywhere cannot be seen. What harms everyone cannot be acknowledged. So, we obsess over what is trivial and distract ourselves with false narratives. The point isn’t to understand, much less solve, problems. We’d rather large numbers of people to suffer and die, as long as we don’t have to face the overwhelming sense of anxiety about the world we’ve created.

We pretend to care about public health. We obsess over pharmaceuticals and extreme medical interventions while pandering about exercise and diet, not to mention going on about saving the planet while only taking symbolic actions. But some of the worst dangers to public health go with little mention or media reporting. Lead toxicity is an example of this. It causes numerous diseases and health conditions: lowered IQ, ADHD, aggressive behavior, asthma, and on and on. Now we know it also causes heart disease. Apparently, it even immensely contributes to diabetes. A common explanation might be that heavy metals interfere with important systems in the body such as the immune system and hormone system. In the comments section of Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s post shared below, I noticed this interesting piece of info:

“I recently listened to a presentation, as a part of a class I’m taking, put on by the lead researcher for the TACT trial. He is a cardiologist himself. I would say that a 48% ABSOLUTE risk reduction in further events in diabetic patients, and a 30-something % risk reduction in patients without diabetes, is extremely significant. I went and read the study afterward to verify the numbers he presented. I would say, based on the fact that he admitted freely he thought he was going to prove exactly the opposite, and that his numbers and his statements show it does work, are pretty convincing. Naturally, no one that works for JAMA will ever tell you that. They would prefer to do acrobatics with statistics to prove otherwise.”

Lead toxicity is one of the leading causes of disease and death in the world. It damages the entire body, especially the brain. For the survivors of lead toxicity, they are crippled for life. It was also behind the violent crime wave of paste decades. The prison population has higher than average rates of lead toxicity, which means we are using prisons to store and hide the victims and scapegoat them all in one fell swoop. And since it is the poor who are primarily targeted by our systematic indifference (maybe not indifference, since there are profits and privileges incentivizing it), it is they who are disproportionately poisoned by lead and then, as victims, imprisoned or otherwise caught up in the legal system or institutionalized or left as one of the vast multitudes of forgotten, of the homeless, of those who die without anyone bothering to find out what killed them.

But if only the poor worked harder, got an education, followed the USDA-recommended diet, and got a good job to pay for all the pills pushed on them by the pharmaceutical-funded doctors, then… well, then what the fuck would good would it do them? Tell me that. The irony is that, as we like to pity the poor for their supposed failures and bad luck, we are all being screwed over. It’s just we feel slightly better, slightly less anxious as long as others are doing worse than us. Who cares that we live in a society slowly killing us. The real victory is knowing that it is killing you slightly slower than your neighbor or those other people elsewhere. For some odd reason, most people find that comforting.

It’s sad. Despite making some minor progress in cleaning up the worst of it, the decades of lead accumulation still lingers in the soil, oceans, infrastructure, and old buildings. Entire communities continue to raise new generations with lead exposure. On top of that, we’ve been adding even more pollutants and toxins to the environment, to our food supply, and to every variety of product we buy. I will say this. Even if diet doesn’t have as big of a direct affect on some of these conditions as does removing dangerous toxins, diet has the advantage of being a factor one can personally control. If you eat an optimally healthy diet, especially if you can avoid foods that are poisoned (either unintentionally with environmental toxins or intentionally with farm chemicals), you’ll be doing yourself a world of good. Greater health won’t eliminate all of the dangers we are surrounded by, but it will help you to detoxify and heal from the damage. It may not be much  in the big picture, but it’s better than nothing.

On the other hand, even if our diet obsession is overblown, maybe it’s more significant than we realize. Sammy Pepys, in Fat is our Friend, writes about Roseto, Pennsylvania. Scientists studying this uniquely healthy American community called the phenomenon the Roseto Effect. These people ate tons of processed meat and lard, smoked cigars and drink wine, and they worked back-breaking labor in quarries where they would have been exposed to toxins (“Rosetan men worked in such toxic environments as the nearby slate quarries … inhaling gases, dusts and other niceties.” p. 117). Yet their health was great. At the time, diet was dismissed because it didn’t conform to USDA standards. While most Americans had already switched to industrial seed oils, the Rosetans were still going strong on animal fats. Maybe their diet was dismissed too easily. As with earlier lard-and-butter-gorging Americans, maybe all the high quality animal fats (probably from pasture-raised animals) was essential to avoiding disease. Also, maybe it had something to do with their ability to handle the toxins as well. Considering Weston A. Price’s research, it’s obvious that all of those additional fat-soluble vitamins sure would have helped.

Still, let’s clean up the toxins. And also, let’s quit polluting like there is no tomorrow.

* * *

What causes heart disease part 65 – Lead again
by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick

There are several things about the paper that I found fascinating. However, the first thing that I noticed was that…. it hadn’t been noticed. It slipped by in a virtual media blackout. It was published in 2018, and I heard nothing.

This is in direct contrast to almost anything published about diet. We are literally bombarded with stories about red meat causing cancer and sausages causing cancer and heart disease, and veganism being protective against heart disease and cancer, and on and on. Dietary articles often end up on the front page on national newspapers. […]

Where was I? Oh yes, lead. The heavy metal. The thing that, unlike diet, makes no headlines whatsoever, the thing that everyone ignores. Here is one top-line fact from that study on lead, that I missed:

‘Our findings suggest that, of 2·3 million deaths every year in the USA, about 400 000 are attributable to lead exposure, an estimate that is about ten times larger than the current one.’ 1

Yes, according to this study, one in six deaths is due to lead exposure. I shall repeat that. One in six. Eighteen per cent to be exact, which is nearer a fifth really. […]

So, on one side, we have papers (that make headlines around the world) shouting about the risk of red meat and cancer. Yet the association is observational, tiny, and would almost certainly disappear in a randomised controlled trial, and thus mean nothing.

On the other we have a substance that could be responsible for one sixth of all deaths, the vast majority of those CVD deaths. The odds ratio, highest vs lowest lead exposure, by the way, depending on age and other factors, was a maximum of 5.30 [unadjusted].

Another study in the US found the following

‘Cumulative lead exposure, as reflected by bone lead, and cardiovascular events have been studied in the Veterans’ Normative Aging Study, a longitudinal study among community-based male veterans in the greater Boston area enrolled in 1963. Patients had a single measurement of tibial and patellar bone lead between 1991 and 1999. The HR for ischemic heart disease mortality comparing patellar lead >35 to <22 μg/g was 8.37 (95% CI: 1.29 to 54.4).’ 3

HR = Hazard Ratio, which is similar, if not the same to OR = Odds Ratio. A Hazard Ratio of 8.37, means (essentially) a 737% increase in risk (Relative Risk).

Anyway, I shall repeat that finding a bit more loudly. A higher level of lead in the body leads to a seven hundred and thirty-seven per cent increase in death from heart disease. This is, in my opinion, correlation proving causation.

Looking at this from another angle, it is true that smoking causes a much greater risk of lung cancer (and a lesser but significant increase in CVD), but not everyone smokes. Therefore, the overall damage to health from smoking is far less than the damage caused by lead toxicity.

Yet no-one seems remotely interested. Which is, in itself, very interesting.

It is true that most Governments have made efforts to reduce lead exposure. Levels of lead in the children dropped five-fold between the mid-sixties and the late nineties. 4 Indeed, once the oil industry stopped blowing six hundred thousand tons of lead into the atmosphere from vehicle exhausts things further improved. Lead has also been removed from water pipes, paint, and suchlike.

However, it takes a long old time from lead to be removed from the human body. It usually lingers for a lifetime. Equally, trying to get rid of lead is not easy, that’s for sure. Having said this, chelation therapy has been tried, and does seem to work.

‘On November 4, 2012, the TACT (Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy) investigators reported publicly the first large, randomized, placebo-controlled trial evidence that edetate disodium (disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) chelation therapy significantly reduced cardiac events in stable post–myocardial infarction (MI) patients. These results were so unexpected that many in the cardiology community greeted the report initially with either skepticism (it is probably wrong) or outright disbelief (it is definitely wrong).’ 3

Cardiologists, it seems from the above quotes, know almost nothing about the subject in which they claim to be experts. Just try mentioning glycocalyx to them… ‘the what?’

Apart from a few brave souls battling to remove lead from the body, widely derided and dismissed by the mainstream world of cardiology, nothing else is done. Nothing at all. We spend trillions on cholesterol lowering, and trillions on blood pressure lowering, and more trillions on diet. On the other hand, we do nothing active to try and change a risk factor that kicks all the others – in terms of numbers killed – into touch.

14 thoughts on “Lead Toxicity is a Hyperobject

  1. Having lived in Baltimore for about 10 years I’m familiar with the lead poisoning issue. Thousands of buildings in the city are contaminated. Landlords and property owners routinely ignore requirements to clean their property. Yet another example of systemic corruption, class warfare and all the usual examples of the hit parade.

    • I’ve been amazed at how little attention lead toxicity has gotten in general. We’ve had good research on it for decades now. It’s no longer even a scientific debate about the harm it causes. We’ve measured it in numerous ways. And we know the exact mechanisms of what it does in the body.

      It pops up briefly maybe once a decade or so. Then it disappears from public attention again. We did decrease the amount of lead we are putting out into the environment. But even that isn’t necessarily so for poor communities. Toxic dumps get located near poor populations.

      For God’s sake, there are still poor public schools with lead paint, not to mention asbestos. Much of the population in the US is surrounded by various sources of lead. Yet we can’t find the money to clean it up, as trillions upon trillions of dollars thrown out as discounted natural resources, subsidies, bailouts, etc.

      It’s another example of a suicidal society. And it’s not only the poor. All Americans are being hit hard by pollutants and toxins in the air we all breathe and the in the food system we’re all dependent upon. Lead toxicity is simply the most obvious and well researched.

      • I agree. I’d add that it’s a vector within the capitalist system because it’s about class warfare even though it’s also toxic in multiple ways for the “ruling class” – despite access to better healthcare.

        In Baltimore it’s a series of nesting dolls.

        Baltimore is second (or was) to Detroit in the number of “abandoned” houses.

        But the corrupt city and state bureaucracies refuse to use eminent domain (which may be a federal prerogative) because they get money and support from the property owners who get a tax breaks for the abandoned property.

        Then the next layer is the history of redlining which connects to the rise of the real estate mafia who in the 70’s sold off land/houses/buildings to “philanthropies” who “donated” the land to Johns Hopkins and others who then partner with the state/fed to “develop” the land (tax breaks, loans, etc).

        Then you have thousands of “abandoned” homes that are owned by front companies who are renting to the working poor – who pay cash for illegal units.

        The real owners are the drug dealers who launder their cash by taking say $400/month in rent but tell the IRS the rent is $1000+

        The city knows all about it and is in on it with various agencies getting kickbacks, the real estate companies taking bribes, the banks getting huge amounts of cash they then loan+interest and bundle debt for more “profit” and so on.

        And the buildings of course are all full of lead and other toxins.

        The city then is a kind of open sewer and everyone is implicated.

        Freddie Gray was a victim of lead poisoning and he’s a vector for the entire sick system.

        • A great example and a great explanation. That sums it up perfectly, how it is all connected to larger systems of dysfunction and corruption.

          It isn’t merely lead, no matter how horrific is lead toxicity considered by itself. Lead toxicity is a side effect of power and profit. It’s an all-encompassing and all-consuming dilemma for it is a self-made trap that even the ruling elite don’t know how to escape. Everyone keeps riding along, hoping it doesn’t all go to hell in their lifetime. Sill, we all know it can’t last for much longer.

          There is no way to change that side effect without threatening that power and profit, without challenging the entire system and the society built upon it. There is the rub. And that is why no change will happen without revolution or collapse. We are collectively paralyzed within the system, but the possibility of acting outside of the system is unimaginable for most people as long as the system remains in place.

          We haven’t merely painted ourselves into a corner. We are painting ourselves over a cliff. Slowly backing closer and closer to the edge, most people being oblivious to the chasm that is behind us.

          • Exactly.

            there are hundreds of historical examploes that all line up with your points.

            In deconstructing the Lobster king’s puerile views on “Marxism” I spent a lot of effort trying to detail how the meta/large scale issue locked the historical trajectory into a circular firing squad of collapse/revolution regardless of who “won” the struggle.

            Same for Europe in the 18th and then again in the 19th and 20th centuries.

            Then one could dive into various matrices of art and philosophy and find a rogue’s gallery of observational geniuses saying in effect, we’re screwed – left, right, liberal, yada yada, “the center can not hold” and so on.

            In our fair corner of history i keep coming around to this issue vis the “Progressives et al” who keep inching right up to a critique of capitalims but then retreat into tepid adjustments to liberalism and the status qua.

            Sanders recently advocated an end to real estate by offering government housing on a massive scale.

            But he didn’t say, it would require nationalizing the banks (or a massive chunk of the banking industry) and the long structural train that goes with it – everything from advertising to interior design – all would be absorbed by the fed.

            And he’s not wrong but neither he nor Warren or anyone else is going to say that piecemeal “solutions” can’t work and that like all of the other historical examples, the system is in a binary cul de sac – as you say, between revolution or collapse.

            Now add in environmental collapse and it’s only a matter of time before environmental violence accelerates.

            The burning of the amazon is the burning of the Reichstag – and both left and right will up the ante as the pressure mounts.

            “May you live in interesting times”;-/

          • “there are hundreds of historical examploes that all line up with your points.”

            That is the thing. It feels so tired and repetitive. We’ve been here before. It’s a bit different each iteration. But it’s like each mass catastrophe is a dress rehearsal for the next even greater mass catastrophe, as we move toward the grand finale. We are on our way!

            We lurch forward and some take the sense of movement as progress. Well, we definitely are heading toward something, no doubt about that. I won’t pretend to know how it ends, much less make moral claims in judging what it will mean. We are blinded by a darkness. And that darkness is a shadow being cast by something looming before us.

          • Yes, gentlemen. We’ve been here before — time and time again.

            “You can’t stop progress,” as they say. (Who precisely “they” are, however, runs a bit deeper than the “us vs. them” narrative we’ve got going on.)

            Of course, href=”https://reddead.fandom.com/wiki/Dutch_van_der_Linde”>Dutch van der Linde thought he might, of course, and wound up subservient to his own ego, instead — much to the chagrin (and demise) of his particular “community” of “outlaws” — but for one man, of course, as the story also always goes.

            Some have fought it with the pen, which is “mightier than the sword” or so “they” also say; some have fought it with militia; ideas; words; …and guns.

            Yet, all have failed to stop “progress.”

            Kind of begs the question what “progress” is (or is supposed to be), doesn’t it?

          • Here is one way to think about it. The shadow that looms from the future indicates an attractor, something within the collective psyche. Many people have talked about this idea. Jeremy Johnson also brings it up in his book on Jean Gebser, having to with a transformed sense of time.

            Going with this idea, we are impelled to move by something we don’t really understand and can’t see, that is to say the attractor that we only notice as a shadow cast. In that shadow, we are engulfed in a darkness and I suggested that such a darkness is alive, vital and vibrant. This relates, I might suggest, with Gebser’s transparency. The shadow is nothing in itself — it poses the possibility of seeing through the world.

            The attractor, in drawing us in toward something, feels like movement and some interpret that as progress, but that is a projection of belief as ideal or utopian vision. It would be better to remain close to the feeling of movement itself, of the world shifting, the ground giving way.

            The shadow is the potential for something else. This is disconcerting, though, since potential also means uncertainty. Experience opens up… to what? toward what? Before one can reorient, one must be disoriented.

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