“More children are suffering long-term lead poisoning health effects” says WHO

"More children are suffering long-term lead poisoning health effects" says WHO. Image: WHO

Each year, an estimated 1 million people, die from lead poisoning.

Millions more, many of them children, are exposed to low levels of lead causing lifelong health problems, including anaemia, hypertension, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs.

The neurological and behavioural effects of lead could be irreversible, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed on Sunday, October 23.

WHO recommends that the source of lead exposure should be identified and action taken to reduce and terminate exposure for all individuals with a blood lead level of more than 5ug/dl. There is no safe level of exposure to lead, which harms health, particularly children’s health.

UNICEF estimates that 1 in 3 children – up to 800 million globally – have blood lead levels at or above 5 µg/dl – and immediate global action is needed to address this problem.

Doctor Maria Nera, WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health confirmed that: “Lead exposure is especially dangerous to children’s developing brains and can result in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), attention span, impaired learning ability, and increased risk of behavioural problems.”

She added: “This preventable harm to children’s brains leads to a tragic loss of potential.”

Lead is toxic to multiple body systems, including the central nervous system and brain, the reproductive system, kidneys, the cardiovascular system, the blood system and the immune system.

Lead exposure is estimated to account for 21.7 million years lost to disability and death (disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs) worldwide, due to long-term effects on health. WHO estimates that 30 per cent of idiopathic intellectual disabilities, 4.6 per cent of cardiovascular disease and 3 per cent of chronic kidney diseases can be attributed to exposure to lead.

There are many sources of lead exposure in industrial settings like mining and smelting, recycling of electronic waste and lead-acid batteries, plumbing and ammunition in settings that could expose children and adolescents, particularly in developing economies.

Exposure can also occur in non-industrial settings as lead paint can be found in homes, schools, hospitals, and playgrounds. Children can ingest flakes and dust, from lead-painted toys or surfaces or be exposed through lead-glazed ceramics and some traditional medicines and cosmetics.


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Written by

Anna Ellis

Originally from the UK, Anna is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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