News / USA

    Raising Awareness of Lead Poisoning

    Omema survived lead poisoning but her caretakers say she can't hear or speak and is constantly sickly.  Parents say they can't count the number of children that have been killed by lead poisoning in recent years. (H. Murdock for VOA)
    Omema survived lead poisoning but her caretakers say she can't hear or speak and is constantly sickly. Parents say they can't count the number of children that have been killed by lead poisoning in recent years. (H. Murdock for VOA)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua
    The World Health Organization says lead poisoning has devastating health consequences, especially for children. The WHO is raising awareness about the problem during International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. The theme is Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future.


    It’s estimated that 143,000 people die every year from lead poisoning. Lead exposure also contributes to 600,000 new cases annually of children with intellectual disabilities. Much of the problem is blamed on lead paint.

    Carolyn Vickers is Team Leader for Chemical Safety in the WHO’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

    “Lead poisoning is considered by WHO to be one of the top 10 chemical exposures of major public health concern. And it’s particularly worrying because it affects children and a developing fetus. It also affects adults through occupational exposure with the high burden in developing countries.”

    But it’s not just in developing countries.

    L”ead exposure is a big problem in most if not all countries. In some countries lead paint is still used. That’s obviously adding every year to the number of houses, schools and buildings that are treated with lead paint. But also even in developed countries lead paint has been applied for many decades and when people undertake activities, such as renovating their home, it causes the lead to form dust, which children can become exposed to. So it is actually a problem in most countries,” she said.

    She said lead dust particles can be so fine that people don’t even know they’re being exposed. In children, lead can damage the developing nervous system, including the brain. IQ can be affected. High lead exposure can cause irreversible damage.

    “Here we’re talking about different kinds of lead exposure. Before, I was talking about lead paint. But children can also be exposed to lead through activities, such as hazardous work. If children are involved in recycling of batteries or are playing with batteries where recycled. Also children can be exposed to lead if they’re engaged in hazardous mining activities in developing countries. And here we see various serious cases of lead poisoning,” said Vickers.

    For adults, heavy exposure can come from working in battery recycling, smelting or painting. It can affect adults’ kidneys and blood pressure.

    One of the major ways many countries have reduced lead in the environment is to ban its use in gasoline.  

    “As a result of that action there has been a decrease worldwide in exposure to lead. That’s a very encouraging sign and it’s proving that action leads to good outcomes -- and that the next step is to tackle lead paint, which we believe, is very achievable,” she said.

    Lead may be found in paint pigment.
    She said, “There are some global suppliers of pigment. So it’s feasible to tackle a large amount of it by encouraging or requiring manufacturers that ship their pigment products to stop doing that and to only use non-lead versions. Then the next step is to educate paint formulators about the hazards of lead paint -- to encourage them to look for the non-lead alternative. And to encourage governments to pass regulation, legislation or other relevant controls to prohibit lead decorative paints.”

    Thirty countries have phased out lead paint. The WHO, U.N. Environment Fund and the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint have set a target of 70 countries by 2015.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora