By Collins Orono
Lead poisoning is affecting children on a massive and previously unknown scale, according to a new report launched on 30th July 2020 by UNICEF and Pure Earth.
“The Toytic Truth” report that highlights Children’s exposure to lead globally says that around 1 in 3 children have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which requires action and nearly half of these children live in South Asia.
The joint report by UNICEF and Pure Earth notes that lead is a powerful substance that causes permanent harm to children’s brains and more destructive to babies and children under the age of 5 as it damages their brain before they have had the opportunity to fully develop, causing permanent damage. Childhood lead exposure has also been linked to mental health and behavioral problems and an increase in crime and violence. Older children suffer severe consequences, including increased risk of kidney damage and cardiovascular diseases in later life, the report says.
It also found out that 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 major increase in the number of vehicles since 2000. The increase in vehicle ownership, combined with the lack of vehicle battery recycling regulation and infrastructure was reported to have resulted in up to 50 per cent of lead-acid batteries being unsafely recycled in the informal economy.
Other sources of childhood lead exposure include lead in water from the use of leaded pipes; lead from active industry, such as mining and battery recycling; lead-based paint and stains; leaded gasoline, lead solder in food cans; and lead in spices, cosmetics, toys and other consumer products. Parents whose occupations involve working with lead often bring contaminated dust home on their clothes, hair, hands and shoes, thus inadvertently exposing their children to the toxic element.
In Kenya the report found out that at least 9 million children could be having lead of above 5 micrograms per decilitre in their blood while 445,902 children suffer extreme lead levels of 10 micrograms per decilitre.
According to the US Center for Disease prevention and control, protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected. The most important step parents, doctors, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.
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