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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid