Archive for October, 2009

Lead Poisoning – The Number One Toxic Hazard to Young Children

Last week was Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Lead poisoning is the number one toxic hazard to children under the age of 7.  Children with lead poisoning can suffer from:

  • Brain and nervous system damage
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems

Adults that are affected may show symptoms of high blood pressure, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and reproductive problems.  Note that a child or adult can appear healthy, yet have a high level of lead in their body with symptoms that appear in time when a dangerous amount has accumulated in the system.

Children are usually exposed to lead through lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust from older houses built before 1978, including day care facilities.  According to the CDC, approximately 24 million housing units have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust.  More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children[1].  Children know no boundaries – they are inquisitive, curious and adventurous.  These behaviors put them at risk as they tend to handle objects or soil that may be contaminated with lead dust and then put their hands in their mouths.

How can you prevent childhood lead poisoning?

  • Deter access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces in older homes treated with lead-based paint.
  • Pregnant women and children should avoid renovation areas for homes built before 1978.
  • Children’s hands and toys should be washed frequently.
  • Household dust in older homes is a major source of lead contaminants.  Therefore, thorough and regular cleaning is important, including windowsills and baseboards.
  • Older plumbing contained lead or lead solder.  Call your local health department or water supplier to have your water tested.
  • Avoid eating candy imported from Mexico, as some products have been found to contain lead.
  • Avoid cookware or tableware that is not shown to be lead-free, many times imported from other countries.
  • If a family member works in an environment where he or she is exposed to lead, wash his or her clothes separately from the rest of the family’s.
  • Check the Lead Recall list regularly, click here to view the site.

If you suspect your or family members may be or have been exposed to lead, ExperTox can test for lead.  As part of the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, activites are continuing across the country, including no or low cost testing services.  To find events in your area, check out the EPA Lead Poisoning Prevention Week site.

Drug-Free Work Week Open House

ExperTox would would like to thank everyone for participating in our Drug-Free Work Week Open House on October 21, 2009.  A special thanks goes out to Wendy Bowser, AFLAC,; and June Fields, Orasure Technologies, for their support by contributing raffle and promotional items for our guests.

Wendy Bowser, AFLAC

Wendy Bowser, AFLAC


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,


Support National Drug-Free Work Week

October 19 – 25 is National Drug-Free Work Week, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor in coordination with members of its Drug-Free Workplace Alliance.  The purpose of this week is to highlight that being drug free is key to workplace safety and health, and to encourage workers with alcohol and drug problems to seek help.

Encouraging a drug-free work environment goes beyond health and safety.  Employees that are impaired affect productivity, both their own as well as other employees’.  Employees that use drugs or alcohol may negatively affect workplace morale, customer and employee relationships, employee turnover, quality and accuracy.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, problems related to drugs and alcohol abuse cost American businesses roughly $81 billion in lost productivity in just one year.   Can your organization really afford that? 

Your organization may not currently have a drug-free workplace policy, and one challenge is knowing where to start.  Resources that can help you develop a strong company policy at no or low cost include The Council on Drugs and Alcohol Houston, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Society for Human Resources Management if you are a member.  You might also seek assistance from your Professional Employers Organization (PEO), Third-Party Administrators (TPAs), and human resources consultants and attorneys in your area.

It is not too late!  You can bring Drug-Free Work Week to the forefront in your organization, and the Department of Labor has created some ideas and resources to help you.  If you are in the Houston area, come show your support at ExperTox’s Open House on Wednesday, October 21 from 3 p. – 6 p.  We’re celebrating with lots of food, free hearing tests, free drug-free workplace materials, hourly raffles and a peek behind-the-scenes – a tour of our laboratory.  Just let us know you will be there by clicking here to RSVP.

Let us know what your company is doing to show its support of Drug-Free Work Week.  We’d love to hear about it! 

October 22, 2009 – we want to share pictures of our Open House event with you.  Click here to view!

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Prescription Drug Abuse – “The Doctor Gave It To Me” Excuse and Other Rationalized Conversations

According to an article written for DATIA Focus magazine by Dr. Ernest Lykissa, PhD, ExperTox’s Scientific Laboratory Director and Forensic Toxicologist, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) says nearly 7 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, and reports opiod painkillers now cause more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.  You might even be surprised at some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs routinely found in people’s medicine cabinets:

  • Opiods (pain relievers)
    • OxyContin
    • Percodan/Percocet
    • Darvon
    • Vicodin
    • Demerol
    • Codeine
  • CNS Depressants (tranquilizers and sedatives)
    • Valium
    • Xanax
  • Stimulants
    • Adderall
    • Ritalin

 These drugs are often prescribed to relieve pain; reduce anxiety and panic attacks; allow improved sleep; and manage attention deficit disorder.  In a nutshell, they provide relief.  Unfortunately, some people become addicted to the benefits of these drugs.  They may have trouble getting off the prescription over time or think “more is better”, increasing their dosage without medical supervision.  Because a doctor prescribed the initial medication, a sense of justification sets in.

 Prescription drugs can be abused through what is referred to as “doctor shopping”.  This is when a person visits multiple doctors for the same problem without alerting them to their prior care, then takes the prescriptions to different pharmacies.  Many pain management physicians are now performing drug tests before issuing prescriptions in an effort to stop this trend.  Another way individuals abuse prescription drugs is by giving or taking another person’s prescription.  They either “borrow” it out of their family’s or friend’s medicine cabinet, or it is freely given without one knowing the extent of the problem.

 Teen drug abuse of prescription medications is a rising concern.  Prescription drugs are taken from parents’ medicine cabinets, only to be sold for extra cash on the streets.  Though your teen may not be directly affected by drug use, they may unknowingly be taking a pill at a time out of your prescription bottles to make a few extra bucks, while feeding the addiction of others.  If a medicine cabinet is not secured, it is also easy for a young adult to “sneak” pills from an adult’s prescribed medications when they are having a bad day or stressed.  One pill at a time may lead to more addictive behavior.  Do you think this can’t happen to you or your children?  Look at the facts – 15.4% of 12th graders used prescription drugs for nonmedical use according to Monitoring The Future’s 2008 report.

 Finally, drug testing for pre-employment, random, for cause and/or post-accident purposes has become normal protocol with many employers.  Most choose 5 or 10 panel standard drug tests.   What many don’t realize is that some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs will not be screened for in these standard panels, most specifically synthetic opiates such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).  With the rise in prescription drug abuse, it makes risk, safety and financial sense to ask for additional testing to cover the most commonly abused prescription drugs when conducting employment-based drug testing.

 It is easy for people to justify in their minds that if they have a prescription, they are not a “substance abuser”.  They easily rationalize that if the doctor said it is okay through his or her prescription, then they are not subject to the stereotype of “street drug” users.

 Have you faced a prescription drug abuse situation with a friend, family member or coworker?  Share your story here (without using real names, business names or places please).

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ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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