Low-level lead exposure from petrol, paint and old plumbing can cause hundreds of thousands of premature heart disease deaths in the US. Every year, nearly 256,000 Americans die from heart disease due to traces of the toxic metal in the environment.
‘Increased exposure to lead can cause thousands of more deaths every year in the US.’Lead was added to petrol to boost engine compression until the 1990s. Lead was once widely used before being banned in the US in 1978 and the EU in 1992 to improve the performance of the household paint.
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Lead pipes were extensively used in plumbing and can be found in older resources.
Lead exposure is associated with high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and coronary heart disease.
Lead researcher Professor Bruce Lanphear, from Simon Fraser University in Canada, said that the study estimates the impact of lead exposure on adults in the past who are currently aged 44 years old or above in the USA, who were exposed to lead during those years before the study began.
Professor Lanphear also said, “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.”
Scientists for almost 20 years followed about 14,300 participants, and a medical examination was done for all at the start of the study, which included a blood test for lead.
People with high levels of lead in their blood at least 6.7 micrograms were twice more likely to die from ischaemic heart disease than those with low levels of lead in their blood.
Overall, the cardiovascular death risk has raised by 70 percent by higher levels of lead exposure.
The research team estimated that about 28.7 percent of cases of annual premature heart disease death could be due to lead and a total of 256,000 deaths occur per year in the US.
The findings were reported in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Prof Lanphear added that this study highlights the ‘safe levels’ of lead and suggest that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death in the USA.
“Currently, low levels of lead exposure are important, but largely ignored risk factor for deaths from cardiovascular disease. Public health measures, such as decreasing lower housing, phasing out lead-containing jet fuels, replacing lead-plumbing lines, and reducing emissions from smelters and lead battery facilities, will be vital to prevent lead exposure.”
Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sheffield, said that this study suggests that lead or factors that increase people’s exposure to lead can cause thousands of more deaths every year than we previously thought.