Health Care

Lead exposure increases risk for premature deaths & cardiovascular diseases

Lead exposure increases risk for premature deaths & cardiovascular diseases

Tim Chico from the University of Sheffield said: "This study suggests that lead, or factors that increase people's exposure to lead, causes thousands more deaths every year than we previously recognised". And adult exposure to lead even at levels so low that they've been considered relatively benign is actually deadly enough to be considered a leading cause of death in the US.

"Our study findings suggest that low-level environmental lead exposure is an important risk factor for death in the U.S., particularly from cardiovascular disease", the paper states.

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. The population attributable fractions of the concentration of lead in blood for all-cause, cardiovascular, and ischemic heart disease mortality were 18.0, 28.7, and 37.4 percent, respectively, equivalent to 412,000, 256,000, and 185,000 deaths annually. Environmental lead exposure is a risk factor for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease mortality, according to a study published online March 12 in The Lancet Public Health.

"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. Still, lead represents a leading cause of disease and death, and it is important to continue our efforts to reduce environmental lead exposure", explained lead author professor Bruce Lanphear, from Simon Fraser University in Canada, in a statement.

There are regulations in place to safeguard people against lead exposure but about 90 percent of US are still exposed to the contaminant, CNN noted.

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Using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 4,422 of the 14,289 participants died after an average of 19.3 years.

Around 14,300 participants were followed for nearly 20 years. "The information that emerges from this reassessment will increase understanding of lead's contribution to mortality from non-communicable diseases, could foster collaboration between the environmental and chronic disease research communities, guide realignment of cardiovascular disease prevention strategies, and ultimately save lives".

People with high levels of at least 6.7mg were twice as likely to die from ischaemic heart disease compared with people having low levels of lead in their blood. All participants completed home interviews, had been tested for lead in their urine and were followed through 2011.

"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".

Additionally, they note that they could not control for exposure to other contaminants that might affect cardiovascular health, such as arsenic or air pollution. However, because lead can contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure and hardening of arteries, it is also believed to contribute to cardiovascular and heart disease.