On 30th July 2020, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Pure Earth, international non-profit organization authored and published the first of kind report on the health crisis titled “The Toxic Truth: Children’s Exposure to Lead Pollution Undermines a Generation of Future Potential” states that lead poisoning affects large number of children all across the globe.
The report states that around 1 in every 3 that is around 800 million children across the world has the blood lead level above or at 5 micrograms per deciliter, the amount at which action is required and almost 50% of these children live in South Africa.
The Toxic Truth is an analysis of childhood exposure to lead conducted by the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation.
It was verified with the study approved for publication in Environmental Health Perspectives.
The report identifies lead as a potent neurotoxin which harms the brains of the children particularly in children under the age of 5 resulting in neurological, cognitive and physical impairments. The report states that the exposure of lead in childhood is linked to the mental health and behavioural problems which increase the rate of crime and violence. To the lower and middle income countries, it is estimated to cost around USD 1 trillion, in lost economic potential of these children over their lifetimes.
Situation in India: The report states that India has over 275 million children with blood lead levels higher than considered safe. This is also the highest number of lead poisoning cases in children of any country. An analysis of data from different studies on blood lead levels in Indian children found that they could lose four IQ points each simply from lead exposure.
Reasons for Childhood Exposure: The leading contributor to lead poisoning in children is the informal and substandard recycling of lead acid batteries in the informal economy. The other factors of childhood exposure to lead are water from the leaded pipes, lead form mining, lead based paints and pigments, leaded gasoline, lead exposure in certain food industries and other active industries. The lead solder in food containers, spices, cosmetics and other products also results in childhood exposure.
Recommendations: Governments should take steps to build monitoring and reporting systems and to install prevention and control measures. They should equip health systems to detect, monitor and treat lead exposure. Besides they should impose environment, health and safety standards to manufacture and recycle the lead acid batteries.
Note:The World Health Organization (WHO), launched the International Lead Poisoning Week of Action from 20-26th October 2019 to enforce standards to stop the manufacture and sale of paints that contain lead. In 2020 the International Lead Poisoning Week of Action falls on 25-31 October 2020.
1.) Firstpost News(August 4 2020) https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.firstpost.com/india/over-275-million-children-in-india-suffer-mild-to-severe-effects-of-lead-poisoning-as-per-new-unicef-report-87670331.html/amp