Lead Poisoning Prevalence in India

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    In News

    • A report by Niti Aayog and the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has found that India bears the world’s highest health and economic burden due to lead poisoning.

    Key Highlights of the Report

    • Global Findings:
      • Around 1 in 3 children – up to approximately 800 million globally – have blood lead levels (BLL) at or above 5 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL)
      • Children around the world are being poisoned by lead on a massive and previously unrecognized scale.
      • The impact of lead on adults is so large that over 900,000 premature deaths per year are attributed to lead exposure.
      • Many countries lack sufficient formal recycling infrastructure and capacity to handle the quantity of used lead-acid batteries flooding their markets. 
    • Findings about India:
      • It had found India to be home to a major chunk of children (275,561,163 of the 800 million) poisoned by lead globally. 
      • Most affected states: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
      • Deaths due to lead poisoning have continued to rise in India even though lead use in petrol — a key source — was phased out by 2000 in the country. 

    Lead Poisoning

    • About:
      • Lead is a highly toxic metal and a very strong poison.
      • Lead poisoning is a serious and sometimes fatal condition. It occurs when lead builds up in the body.
    • Common Sources of Lead Exposure:
    • Lead in water from the use of leaded pipes
    • Lead from active industry, such as mining and the unsound recycling of used lead-acid batteries (ULABs);
    • Lead-based paint and pigments
    • Leaded gasoline (which has declined considerably in recent decades, but was a major historical source); 
    • Lead solder in food cans; and 
    • Lead in spices, cosmetics, ayurvedic medicines, toys and other consumer products.
    • Children are also exposed to lead in-utero through exposure of their mothers, with adverse impacts on neurobehavioural development.
    • Impact: 
      • Lead poisoning can cause severe mental and physical impairment. Young children are most vulnerable.
      • Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. 
      • Lead is more harmful to children because their brains and nervous systems are still developing.
    • Treatment: Lead poisoning can be treated, but any damage caused cannot be reversed.

    Way Ahead

    • There is a desperate need for policy changes at the national and state levels given the severe health implications.
    • These include identifying at-risk populations through BLL monitoring, investigating sources of elevated BLLs and healthcare workforce training to sensitise them to monitor, detect and treat lead poisoning.
    • India needs to devise implementable strategies on a state level, through regional bureaucracy, local press and vernacular language to have a tangible impact.
    • There is a need to undertake targeted research and intervention studies to identify potential newer sources which policy makers and the scientific community can address head on. 
    • Childhood lead poisoning should command an urgent international response. 

    Source: DTE