Exposure to lead during pregnancy can affect a child’s growth and their ability to see, hear and learn leading to behavioral difficulties. Pooled longitudinal data indicated that children with blood lead levels (BLLs) 2.4-10 μg/dL had reduced IQ, complete less formal education, and earn less money over their lifetimes. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered BLL of concern from 60 μg/dL to 5 μg/dL today. Whereas there is no proven “safe” lead exposure level, especially in children, it is the fact that the severity of the problem increases with the increasing levels of lead exposure and consumption.
Globally, an estimated 800 million children have elevated high lead and most of the exposures occur in lower- income countries (LMIC) because there are more sources of lead and more contaminations along with less monitoring and control than in higher income countries (HIC). Most of these children live in Africa and Asia, but a high proportion live in HICs e.g., USA and European countries. Lead poisoning mounts a multi-pronged and enduring attack on children’s health and development during their vulnerable and formative years leading to devastating lifelong effects. Increasingly, evidence also points to lead poisoning as a root cause of violence and crime as a long-term effect of brain and neurological damage to children’s brain.
Maintaining protective regulations and vigilance in the production industry is key to avoid devastating consequences, therefore, eradication is needed to combat all sources of contamination through strict safe policies. Thus, we need strict commitment in the reduction of lead exposure, where governments should take urgent action to make sure all children are being fed and educated in safe, secure and healthy environment. The rapidity of the response is crucial; the longer the lead exposure continues, the greater the likelihood of disease.
* Mahfuzar Rahman is Country Director, Pure Earth, Bangladesh ([email protected])