Thomas Robinson | August 4th, 2020
Around 800 million children globally have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per decilitre according to a new report from UNICEF.
UNICEF reports that children around the world are exposed to lead on a previously unknown scale. Most of the affected children live in parts of Africa and Asia but there are also affected populations living in Central and South America, as well as parts of Europe. Children are exposed to lead through the inhalation or ingestion of lead particles from contaminated drinking water or materials such as lead paint. One particularly concerning route of exposure is from poorly recycled lead-acid batteries. These batteries are becoming increasingly common as countries begin to develop and introduce vehicles.
Lead is known to have cumulative and adverse health effects on children’s development. Lead impairs brain functions and can also cause damage to the nervous system and the heart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe an actionable level of 5 micrograms per decilitre to identify children with blood levels higher than most. Unfortunately, no amount of lead is safe as even low blood lead levels have been linked to long term cognitive impairment.
The United States is not immune from lead contamination in drinking water as can be seen through high profile events such as Flint, MI or Washington, DC. Recent work in Iowa is looking to determine the extent of lead in local school’s drinking water which can be used to inform schools if they need to replace failing infrastructure.