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Exposure: Lead

Health Implications of Lead Contamination

by Ghaida Alsadah

The Juxtaposition in India’s Lead Problem

by Jason Zheng

On November 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), Government of India passed the G.S.R. 409(E) [08-04-2016]: Regulation on Lead contents in Household and Decorative Paints Rules. This prohibited the manufacture, trade, import and export of household and decorative paints that contains lead or lead components in excess of 90 parts per million (ppm). This action was taken to create public awareness and the precautionary measures need to be taken to prevent lead poisoning. Lead poisoning accounts for about 0.6% of the global of disease. It is one of the most common disease of toxic environmental origins.

Lead is a natural reoccurring metal that is found in the Earth's crust. It can be described as soft, malleable, and has a low melting point. It can be merged with other metals to create alloys. Lead has a variety of usage, ranging from batteries for motor vehicles, pigments, paints, solder, stained glass, lead crystal glassware, ammunition, ceramic glazes, jewelry, toys, some cosmetic and traditional medicines. As well, drinking water supplied through led pipes or pipes joined with lead solder may contain lead, and cause humans to suffer from lead intoxication.

Lead is considered as a toxicant that increases in quantity as it dwells in the human body over time. It can also impact multiple body systems, ranging from neurological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, renal, and hematologic systems. Symptoms of lead exposure many vary from one adult to another, but it will increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and kidney damages. For pregnant women, it can put them at high risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and low birth weight and birth malformations. Exposure for children at young ages can lead to permanent damages to their health. In addition, we have not yet established the "safe level" of lead exposure humans can handle.

Blood concentration as low as 5 µg/dl can negatively impact the intellectual abilities for children. As well behavior development and learning problems. In 2018, a meta-analysis study by the Macquarie University found that there is a total of 4.9 DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years) which measures the overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill health, disability, and early death. Another word, 4.9 million years lost due to health illness, disability or early death caused by high blood lead levels.

Phasing out lead in petroleum is one of the major public health accomplishments, but due to the increasing demands for alternative energy vehicles from automakers (to name a few: Tesla, Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet, and Ford), the global consumption of lead continues also increases. A large number of the population in India rely on motorbikes or cars as sources of transportation, given that the battery life is only two years, there are a significant number of used lead batteries recycled each year. These are often processed informally with little or no pollution controls, which results in contamination across urban areas.

The global constant needs to mine, smelt, manufacture, and recycling lead, and the continuous usage of leaded paint, gasoline, and aviation fuel are all culprits of environmental contamination. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme formed the “Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint” with the mission of phasing out the manufacturing and sales of leaded paint and to remove the risk involved with these categories of paints.

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