Almost one million people die yearly from lead poisoning –WHO

The World Health Organisation has estimated that almost one million people die every year due to lead poisoning.

According to the global health body, more children are also suffering long-term health effects from lead poisoning.

“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,” WHO said.

The United Nation’s health agency disclosed this in a press statement released in commemoration of International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. 

The theme of this year’s awareness is ‘Say no to lead poisoning.’

The annual awareness is held to raise awareness about lead poisoning and also encourage countries to take action to prevent lead exposure, particularly in children.

According to experts, people become exposed to lead poisoning through inhalation of lead particles generated by burning materials containing lead, for example during smelting, recycling, stripping leaded paint, and using leaded aviation fuel; and ingestion of lead-contaminated dust, water (from leaded pipes) and food (from lead-glazed or lead-soldered containers).

The press release partly reads, “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% of idiopathic intellectual disability, 4.6% of cardiovascular disease, and 3% 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.”

WHO recommended that all sources of lead exposure should be identified and action should be taken to reduce and terminate exposure for all individuals with a blood lead level of more than 5ug/dl.

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