Lead Poisoning


    Syllabus: GS-2/Health , GS-3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • Recently, a study published in ‘The Lancet Planetary Health Journal’ has highlighted the impacts of Lead Poisoning.

    What is Lead?

    • Lead (Pb) is in a bluish-white color and is soft and ductile metal.
    • It is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust, whose widespread use has caused environmental contamination and health problems in many parts of the world. 

    What is Lead Poisoning?

    • Lead poisoning is a serious health issue caused by the accumulation of lead in the body.
    • According to a 2020 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund and Pure Earth around one in three children worldwide record blood lead levels of over five μg/dL.
      • Normal range of lead in blood for adults: less than 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL).
      • For children: less than 5 µg/dL.
    • Countries with the highest burden are Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Peru, Vietnam, the Philippines and parts of Central Africa.

    Sources of Lead Poisoning

    • Anthropogenic Sources
      • Mobilization of lead in raw materials such as fossil fuels and other extracted and treated ores and metals.
      • Releases during the manufacture, use and disposal of products using lead (e.g. paint, batteries, toys).
      • Direct releases from waste to soil and aquatic environment.
      • Leaded gasoline.
    • Natural Sources
      • Volcanoes.
      • Weathering of Rocks.
      • Exudates from vegetation.

    Impacts of Lead Poisoning

    • Impact on Humans:
      • Once lead enters the bloodstream, it goes directly to the brain because there is no specific blood-brain barrier to restrict its movement.
        • The Low and Middle Income Countries are majorly affected, with children losing an average of 5.9 IQ.
        • It can harm young children’s health by doing damage to the brain, slowed development and learning difficulties.
      • In adults, it can create a risk of cardiovascular diseases,chronic kidney diseases and learning disabilities.
        • 5.5 million died due to cardiovascular diseases caused by lead exposure in 2019.
      • During pregnancy, if the mother consumes lead, there is no placental barrier, so the lead is transferred to the fetus.
    • Environmental Impact: 
      • It can also lead to losses in biodiversity, changes in community composition, decreased growth and low reproductive rates in plants and animals, and neurological effects in vertebrates.

    Lead Poisoning in India

    • The affected states are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh accounting for 40% of the population with high blood lead levels.
    • Lead toxicity in India contributes to 4.6 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) and 165,000 deaths annually.

    Government Initiatives

    • National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis, Endemic Skeletal Fluorosis and Arsenicosis: It was launched in 2010 to take measures to prevent lead poisoning.
    • National Health Mission (NHM): It was initiated by the government to provide comprehensive healthcare services, including screening for lead poisoning and treatment for affected individuals.
    • Lead Battery Waste Management Rules, 2016: It was formulated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to regulate the disposal of lead-acid batteries and promote their recycling in an environmentally safe manner.
    • National Programme for the Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE): It was launched by the government to provide healthcare services to the elderly population, who are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.
    • Center for Advanced Research on Environmental Health (CAREH) : It was established by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct research on environmental health issues, including lead poisoning.

    Source: DTE