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Lead Poisoning May Hasten Death For Millions In US: Study

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Lead Poisoning May Hasten Death For Millions In US: Study

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Lead Poisoning May Hasten Death For Millions In US: Study

Paris: Lanphear also said that no one at all had even tried to approximate the number of deaths engendered by lead exposure utilizing a nationally prototypical sample of adults. It discovered that those persons with a previous blood lead aggregation at the 90th percentile had a 37% growth in all-cause mortality and a 70% growth in cardiovascular disease transience contrast to those with a blood lead concentration at the 10th percentile.

Persistent, low-level exposure to lead over decades is statistically linked to some 400,000 premature deaths in the United States each year, far more than previously thought, researchers said Monday.

Compared to people with little or no lead in their blood, those with high levels — at least 6.7 milligrammes per decilitre (mg/dl) — were 37 percent more likely to die early, according to a new study in The Lancet Public Health, a leading medical journal.

The risk of succumbing to coronary heart disease doubled in such cases, the study found.

“Low levels of lead exposure are important, but largely ignored, risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease,” mainly heart attacks and strokes, said lead author Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

The new research challenges “the assumption that specific toxicants — like lead — have ´safe levels´,” he said in a statement.

Lanphear and his team reviewed two decades of health data for more than 14,000 adults in the US, covering the period 1990-2011.

The participants all had blood tests at the outset to measure past and current exposure to lead, as well as a urine test for the metal cadmium.

People can be exposed to lead via fuel, paint, and plumbing, as well as around smelting sites or by handling lead batteries. Lead contamination can also occur in drinking water, as well as foods stored in lead-tainted containers.

Safety regulations have significantly reduced the risk of lead exposure in recent decades, especially in developed countries, but the heavy metal can persist in the body for many years.

Lead was undetectable in the blood of nearly one in 10 of the volunteers tested. At the other extreme, a fifth were found to have at least five mg/dl of lead flowing through their veins.

The largest lead concentrations found in the study were 10 times higher.

Lead-laden jet fuels:
Overall, 18 percent of US participants who died from all causes during the period reviewed were found to have more than one mg/dl of lead in their blood.

The study concluded that nearly 30 percent of all deaths due to cardiovascular disease — basically, heart attacks and strokes — “could be attributable to lead exposure”.

“Lead represents a leading cause of disease and death, and it is important to continue our efforts to reduce environmental lead exposure,” Lanphear said.

The researchers called for more aggressive measures to retire contaminated housing, phase out lead-laden jet fuels, replace lead pipes in plumbing, and reduce emissions from smelters and lead battery factories.

“Lead has toxic effects on multiple organ systems and relatively low levels of exposure previously thought to be safe,” Philip Landrigan, a professor at New York´s Icahn School of Medicine, said in a comment, also in The Lancet Public Health.

“A key conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that lead has a much greater impact on cardiovascular mortality than previously recognised.”

The authors controlled for other factors that might contribute to cardiovascular disease, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet and lack of exercise.

They were not, however, able to factor out the possible impact of exposure to arsenic or air pollution.

A similar study would need to be conducted in Australia to confirm the extent of the association between lead exposure and heart disease, Dr Harvey noted.

Researchers followed almost 14,300 participants for two decades and discovered that despite previous studies suggesting that low-level lead exposure did not increase the risk of premature death, this might not be the case.

“Our study estimates the impact of historical lead exposure on adults now aged 44 years old or over in the United States of America, whose exposure to lead occurred in the years before the study began,” he explained.

“Estimating the contribution of low-level lead exposure is essential to understanding trends in cardiovascular disease mortality and developing comprehensive strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

“Lead has toxic effects on multiple organ systems and relatively low levels of exposure previously thought to be safe,” Philip Landrigan, a professor at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine, said in a comment, also in The Lancet Public Health.

The risk of succumbing to coronary heart disease doubled in such cases, the study found.

He added: “This study suggests that lead, or factors that increase people’s exposure to lead, causes thousands more deaths every year than we previously recognised.”

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