Exposure to lead & PM2.5 equally harmful: Study

    NEW DELHI: Lead exposure is as harmful as exposure to PM2.5 outdoor ambient and household air pollution combined, according to an analysis published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.
    The key sources of exposure include lead acid battery recycling, soil and dust, leaded paint, cookware from recycled materials, lead-glazed pottery and ceramics, spices, toys, cosmetics, electronic waste and fertilisers.
    According to the Lancet report, exposure to lead can seriously harm young children’s health, including damage to the brain, slowed development and learning difficulties. In adults, lead exposure can increase people’s risk of cardiovascular disease – which accounts for almost 95% of deaths linked to lead exposure – as well as chronic kidney disease and learning disabilities.
    “We know that lead exposure has continued to cause huge impacts on human health, despite most countries banning the use of leaded petrol more than 20 years ago. What is concerning about our study is that it indicates these damaging health effects are much greater than we previously thought and that they come at a very high economic cost, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Efforts to address the impacts of lead exposure must reflect that these are as significant as those posed by PM2.5 outdoor ambient and household air pollution,” lead author Bjorn Larsen said.
    No previous research had assessed the global health impacts and economic costs of IQ loss in young children and cardiovascular disease deaths in adults caused by exposure to lead. Previous research on IQ loss in children was limited to LMICs and based on estimates of blood lead levels (BLL) – the most common indicator of exposure – more than a decade old. “Previous global studies of cardiovascular disease deaths linked to lead exposure had looked only at those caused by increased blood pressure,” according to a statement issued by The Lancet.
    The analysis also suggests that lead exposure caused the loss of 765 million IQ points in children under five years old in 2019, with 95% of the losses among children in LMICs. During their first five years of life, children in LMICs on average each lose 5.9 IQ points from lead exposure. The authors estimate this can reduce these children’s total lifetime income by as much as 12%.

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