Unicef: One third of the world's children are intoxicated with lead

Unicef: One third of the world’s children are intoxicated with lead

A third of the world’s children are intoxicated with lead, which can cause irreparable damage to the brain, according to a report released on Wednesday by Unicef ​​by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Terra Pura.

According to the study, one in three children, 800 million in total, have blood lead levels equal to or greater than five micrograms per deciliter, the level at which it is considered necessary to intervene.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), even the lowest levels of lead can be linked to lower intelligence, behavioral difficulties and learning problems in minors.

Although the problem occurs worldwide, today the most affected areas correspond to countries with few resources. Almost half of these 800 million intoxicated children live in the South Asian region.

The study, the first to be carried out on this scale, according to its authors, concluded unequivocally that children worldwide are being “poisoned on a massive and previously unrecognized scale”.

“Lead, which only generates symptoms at the beginning, causes silent damage to the health and development of children, with potentially fatal consequences,” said the executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), Henrietta Fore.

According to Fore, “knowing the extent of lead contamination and understanding the destruction it causes in the lives of individuals and communities should inspire urgent measures to protect children once and for all.”

Lead, a heavy metal widely used since ancient times for a wide variety of applications, generates a powerful neurotoxin that is especially harmful for children and, above all, for children under five.

At these ages, when the brain is not fully developed, the substance can cause neurological, cognitive and physical deterioration for life.

Numerous studies have linked lead exposure in childhood to mental and behavioral health problems and an increase in crime and violence.

For older children and adults, prolonged exposure to lead is considered to increase the risk of health problems, including cardiovascular and kidney complications.

The study argues that clandestine and deficient recycling of common lead batteries in cars is one of the main factors contributing to the poisoning of children living in low- and middle-income countries, where the number of vehicles has tripled in the last twenty years .

This increase, together with the lack of regulation and infrastructure for recycling, means that up to 50% of lead batteries are recycled in a dangerous way in the black economy, Unicef ​​said.

This puts workers, but also people living in nearby areas, at risk from toxic vapors at risk.

Other sources of intoxication include lead in the water through the use of pipes made from it; lead from activities such as mining, paint and lead-based pigments or leaded gasoline, which has declined significantly in recent decades; as well as can be found in food cans and in spices, cosmetics, toys and other consumer products.

In the wealthier countries, blood lead levels have been reduced very significantly since the phase-out of leaded gasoline and inks made from lead, but the problem still exists in other areas of the world.

Unicef ​​and Pure Earth, an organization based in New York, United States, are calling on governments to take steps to end children’s exposure and move forward with legislation, better prevention and control, more monitoring systems, reinforcement in areas such as the treatment of affected children and minors, as well as developing public awareness campaigns.

“The good news is that lead can be safely recycled without exposing workers, their children and neighboring neighborhoods. Lead-contaminated sites can be repaired and restored, ”explained Pure Earth President Richard Fuller in a statement.

“It is possible to educate people about the dangers of lead and to enable them to protect themselves and their children. The return on investment is enormous: better health, greater productivity, higher IQ [Intelligence Quotient], less violence and a future ”, he stressed.

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