Lead Poisoning is Responsible for One Million Deaths a Year, According to Information from the WHO. Children and Pregnant Women are Among the Most Vulnerable Groups to this Toxic Heavy Metal, Which is Present in Various Everyday Objects. We tell you How to Avoid it.
LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos
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Leer en español: 1 de cada 3 niños tiene plomo en su cuerpo ¿Cómo evitar su exposición y envenenamiento?
The World Health Organization has reported that around one million people die from lead poisoning each year. Similarly, UNICEF estimates that 1 in 3 children, that is, nearly 800 million around the world, have lead particles in their blood. For this reason, they launch a global call for tougher measures to prevent people from being exposed to this heavy metal. They also point out that those in developing countries are more vulnerable to this situation.
Although there are no safe levels of exposure to lead, it continues to be used in industry. For example, it could be found in industrial environments in mining, metal smelting, e-waste processors, plumbing, and lead-acid battery production or recycling. Although it is harmful to all people, regardless of their age, it affects children more severely.
The problem is also that not only can you have exposure in these industrial environments, but it can also be present in everyday products. The most common source of exposure is through lead paint, which can be found in homes, schools, hospitals, or on any wall. Also, various surfaces of toys and toy jewelry may contain lead. Children can ingest flakes and dust from lead-painted toys or surfaces or be exposed through lead-glazed pottery and some traditional medicines and cosmetics.
Most Latin American countries already have regulations to deal with the sale of lead paint. However, it is not superfluous that citizens are informed and control what they consume to avoid being exposed to this material. Also, many older products can continue to be used. In this regard, the United States Center for Disease Control points out that attention must be paid to certain types of toys: "especially imported toys, old toys and toy jewelry, could present a danger because they contain lead. Lead is not visible to the naked eye and has no odor". For this reason, before buying a toy for a child or baby, it is essential to know the brand and the quality standards it handles, as well as read its components.
Health effects of lead
In addition to the million deaths from lead poisoning, the WHO notes that low lead levels can also have severe consequences. "They cause lifelong health problems, such as anemia, hypertension, immunotoxicity, and toxicity to reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead may be irreversible," the organization said in a report.
"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 behavior problems," explained Dr. Maria Nera, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health of the WHO. "This preventable damage to children's brains leads to a tragic loss of potential," she said.
Although children are more vulnerable to lead because their nervous systems are developing, it can also cause cerebrovascular problems in adults and problems in the fetal development of the baby in pregnant women.
We suggest you read: Cavities in Children: How to Prevent It?
This Monday, October 24, begins the International Week for the Prevention of Lead Poisoning, led by the WHO. This is a global campaign to raise awareness about the danger of this metal to health and a call to countries to act urgently in an emergency. Although, on the one hand, it is essential that some 84 countries adopt regulations on lead paint, especially in Africa and Central America, it is also necessary that industries be subjected to stricter regulations on the damage they cause to communities. In this sense, mining companies, which have so many extractive projects in Latin America, have contaminated rivers with lead and mercury, affecting the health of thousands of people. There is an urgent need for a justice that puts the care of life above economic interests and production.