Toxicity of lead

(Sheraz Khan, Islamabad)

Lead is an environmental toxin and it influences all functions of the body. The primary focus for lead toxicity is the nervous system in which it crosses the blood-mind barrier by mimicking calcium. Hypothetically its levels in any liquid ought to be zero, which is unrealistic in an industrial society. Children are more prone to lead poisoning.

Major environmental sources of lead exposure include: air, dust, soil, drinking water and food contaminated with lead.

Occupations that impose greater risk for lead poisoning include welding, iron foundry workers, glaze workers, ship breaking, plumbing, traffic police, repair of automobile radiators, paint industry, lead smelting and refining, pottery and ceramic ware production and many others. Eye beauty care products, for example, surma and kajal, have been found to contain abnormal amounts of lead. A lab experiment has found that the grouping of lead in various sorts of surma in Pakistan ranges from 0.03% to as high as 81.37%

Laws are required to be framed to control lead poisoning. The recommendations for removing lead include eliminating lead additives in fuels and paints, banning lead use in food containers and controlling lead use in traditional medicine and cosmetics. There is also a need to minimize lead use in plumbing and water distribution systems.

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