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Lead exposure

Bangladesh 4th worst-hit in terms of affected children

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31st-Jul-2020       
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UNB, Dhaka :
Bangladesh is the fourth most-seriously hit in terms of the number of children affected by lead poisoning on a massive and previously unknown scale in the world, according to a new global report.
The report, the first of its kind, says that around 1 in 3 children - up to 800 million globally - have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), a level which requires action.
Nearly half of these children live in South Asia. In Bangladesh, it is estimated that 35.5 million children are affected with blood lead levels above 5 µg/dL, making the country the fourth most-seriously hit in the world, according to the report launched by UNICEF and Pure Earth.
"Lead exposure has severe and long-lasting health and development impacts on children, including lifelong learning disabilities and their capacity to earn income when they grow up. UNICEF will be working with the concerned actors to help address dangerous metal waste and lead pollution and the toll it takes on children," said Tomoo Hozumi, Unicef Representative in Bangladesh.
The report-The Toxic Truth: Children's exposure to lead pollution undermines a generation of potential-is an analysis of childhood lead exposure undertaken by the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation and verified with a study approved for publication in Environmental Health Perspectives.
In Bangladesh, illegal recycling of used lead-acid batteries in the open-air and close to homestead areas is considered to be a major source of lead exposure.
This poses a significant health risk for both children and adults.
According to the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation, Bangladesh has the world's fourth-highest rate of death due to lead exposure with an average population of blood lead levels at 6.83 µg/dL, which is the eleventh highest in the world.
The research also found that high concentrations of lead were found in spices in Bangladesh.
Lead chromate, which is used to enhance colour and weight of turmeric as a sign of quality, contributes to the elevated lead blood levels in children and adults alike.
According to one study, some concentrations exceeded the national limit by up to 500 times.
The report estimates that the economic loss due to lead-attributable IQ reduction in Bangladesh is equivalent to 5.9 per cent of the country's GDP.
EFFECTS OF LEAD POISONING ON CHILDREN
Lead poisoning hampers children's ability to fully develop and prevents them from taking the maximum advantage of the opportunities in life.
"With few early symptoms, lead silently wreaks havoc on children's health and development, with possibly fatal consequences," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
"Knowing how widespread lead pollution is - and understanding the destruction it causes to individual lives and communities - must inspire urgent action to protect children once and for all."
The report notes that lead is a potent neurotoxin which causes irreparable harm to children's brains.
It is particularly destructive to babies and children under the age of five as it damages their brains before they have had the opportunity to fully develop, causing them lifelong neurological, cognitive and physical impairment.
Childhood lead exposure has also been linked to mental health and behavioural problems, and to an increase of crime and violence.
Older children suffer severe consequences including increased risk of kidney damage and cardiovascular diseases in later life, the report says.
Childhood lead exposure is estimated to cost lower- and middle-income countries almost USD $1 trillion due to lost economic potential of these children over their lifetime.
SOURCES OF LEAD POSITIONING
The report notes that informal and substandard recycling of lead-acid batteries is a leading contributor to lead poisoning in children living in low and middle-income countries, which have experienced a three-fold increase in the number of vehicles since 2000.

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