Lead poisoning may hasten death for millions

Lead exposure may be linked to 412000 premature US deaths yearly, study says

Lead exposure may be linked to 412000 premature US deaths yearly, study says

Using these risk levels, the researchers estimated 412,000 deaths each year in the US could be attributed to lead exposure, including 256,000 from cardiovascular disease.

"Today, lead exposure is much lower because of regulations banning the use of lead in petrol, paints and other consumer products, so the number of deaths from lead exposure will be lower in younger generations".

"Previous studies of cardiovascular disease mortality in lead-exposed populations have been criticized because they did not account for other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease mortality, such as cadmium", Bruce P. Lanphear, MD, of the department of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues wrote.

From the 1990s until 2015, the US Centers for Disease Control considered anything less than 10 µg/dL to be a "low" level of exposure for adults, though the CDC does not consider any level of lead to be "safe".

The researchers analyzed data from 14,300 people in the United States, covering almost 20 years.

"Our study calls into question the assumption that specific toxicants, like lead, have 'safe levels, ' and suggests that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death in the U.S., particularly from cardiovascular disease", Lanphear said in a press release.

Between 1988 and 1994, U.S. experts gave blood-lead tests to 30,000 randomly selected Americans, from infants to the elderly, then followed up with people in 2011.

However, they acknowledged the use of a single baseline lead value to predict outcomes over the following 20 years was not ideal; serial measurements may have been more informative.

"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".

He said: "The estimated number of deaths from all causes and cardiovascular disease that were attributable to concentrations of lead in blood were surprisingly large; indeed, they were comparable with the number of deaths from current tobacco smoke exposure".

"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. There was a correlation for an increase in the concentration of lead in blood from 1.0 to 6.7 µg/dL (10th to 90th percentiles) with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and ischemic heart disease mortality (hazard ratios, 1.37, 1.70, and 2.08, respectively).

Lead has always been marked out as a toxic substance and has been phased out since the 1990s to reduce its environmental impact.

"Despite the striking reductions in concentrations of lead in blood over the past 50 years, amounts found nowadays in adults are still ten times to 100 times higher than people living in the pre-industrial era". Of these, at least 256,000 occurred from cardiovascular disease - a number suggesting lead exposure could be a far greater cause of death than initially thought.

During the observation, which took more than 20 years, 4422 people died prematurely, out of which more than 1800 died from cardiovascular diseases and approximately 1,000 from ischemic heart disease.

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