Lead exposure even in low levels have been related to cardiovascular diseases. Recent research led by Prof. Bruce Lanphear, from Simon Fraser University Canada, have raised an alarm that exposure to lead a heavy metal may be a cause of over 400,000 deaths in the United States every year. This was revealed in a new study published in The Lancet Public Health Journal.
The study which analyzed over 14,000 people in the U.S.A showed that exposure to low lead levels from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s was associated to a higher risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in the U.S. in the past 20 years.
Lead is a chemical element that is naturally present in soil and water. Its use in the making of petrol, plumbing, paint, and other consumer products was drastically reduced due to studies that indicated that high exposure to 5 micrograms per deciliter or more of the chemical was toxic to humans and animals.
The new study from Prof. Lanphear and colleagues suggests that even lower levels of lead exposure can pose significant harm to health.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), children are most likely to be harmed when exposed to lead. This is because their developing bodies absorb the chemical in higher amounts and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to it leading to developmental, behavioral, and learning problems, as well as anemia and problems with hearing.
Adults who are also exposed to lead may experience reproductive problems, a reduction in kidney function, and increased blood pressure.
According to Prof. Lanphear and his team the study sought to determine how exposure to lead contributes to all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in the U.S.A.
The study revealed that adults who had high lead levels in their blood were 37 percent more likely to die from all causes during the follow-up period, compared with those who had a lower lead level of 1 μg/dL.
The subjects were also 70 percent more likely to die from CVD, and their risk of death from heart disease was doubled.
Prof. Lanphear and team admit that there are some limitations to their research however stated: “Our study calls into question the assumption that specific toxicants, like lead, have ‘safe levels,’ and suggests that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death in the U.S.A., particularly from cardiovascular disease.”
He also said; “Currently, low levels of lead exposure are an important, but largely ignored risk factor for deaths from cardiovascular disease.”
Prof. Lanphear hence advocated that Public health measures such as abating older housing, phasing out lead-containing jet fuels, replacing lead-plumbing lines, and reducing emissions from smelters and lead battery facilities should be looked into to prevent further lead exposure.