One in three children, which comes to around 800 million children around the globe is affected by lead poisoning on a “massive and previously unknown scale”, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund and Pure Earth.
The report- The Toxic Truth: Children’s exposure to lead pollution- said that the blood lead levels was at or above five micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL), About half of the children live in South Asia, the report said.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore warned that lead silently wreaks havoc on children’s health and development, with possibly fatal consequences. “Knowing how widespread lead pollution is – and understanding the destruction it causes to individual lives and communities – must inspire urgent action to protect children once and for all,” she said.
The report – The Toxic Truth: Children’s exposure to lead pollution undermines a generation of potential – is an analysis of childhood lead exposure undertaken by the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation and verified with a study approved for publication in Environmental Health Perspectives. The report features five case studies in Kathgora, Bangladesh; Tbilisi, Georgia; Agbogbloshie, Ghana; Pesarean, Indonesia; and Morelos State, Mexico.
In the report, it is said lead is a potent neurotoxin which causes irreparable harm to children’s brains. It said that lead was destructive to babies and children under the age of five, causing them lifelong neurological, cognitive and physical impairment.
Childhood lead exposure is linked to mental health and behavioural problems, and to an increase of crime and violence, the report said.
Battery recycling, slack regulation
The report finds informal and substandard recycling of lead acid batteries as a leading contributor to lead poisoning in children living in low and middle income countries. In these countries there is lack of vehicle battery recycling regulation. This leads to unsafe recycling of these batteries, t6he report said.
Pipes, paint, consumer products
Leaded pipes, lead from active industry like mining, lead based paint and pigments and leaded gasoline also lead to poisoning in a big way. Lead solder in food cans, spices, cosmetics, ayurvedic medicines, toys and other consumer products also are causes, the report maintained. It also said that parents whose work is related to lead bring home contaminated dust home on their clothes, hair, hands and shoes, inadvertently exposing their children to the toxic element.
Education, public awareness campaigns critical
Pure Earth President Richard Fuller said that lead can be recycled safely without exposing workers, their children, and neighbourhoods. Fueller also said that lead contaminated sites could be remediated and restored.
He stressed that people should be educated about the dangers and empowers them to protect themselves and their children.
The report has urged the governments to take a coordinated approach for building monitoring and reporting systems and installing prevention and control measures. It said that equipping health systems to detect, monitor and treat lead exposure among children was essential.