Lead Poisoning

Critically discuss the problem of childhood lead poisoning in Indian cities, its causes, consequences and remedies. (200 Words)

Lead is a heavy metal with a high toxicity. It can be easily molded and shaped and can easily form alloys with other metals. Hence, it is widely used in industries. This wide use of lead has increased incidences of lead-poisoning.
The causes behind lead poisoning are:
  1. Wide spread use of lead acid batteries is a major cause poisoning especially for the workers and people living around the industries.
  2. Lead paints, especially locally manufactured paints have as high concentration as 10,000 ppm (Compared to BIS recommendation of 90ppm)
  3. Lead is also entering the food chain through vegetables. Inorganic lead could be ingested and directly absorbed by the digestive tract through certain foods and water, as well as some folk and unbranded traditional medicines
  4. The maximum damage is caused due to inhalation of lead particles, especially of sizes less than 10PM.
  5. Lead in its organic form could be absorbed through the skin upon application of cosmetics
  1. Small exposure to lead causes symptoms like headaches, nausea, irritability, tiredness and stomach ache. Hence, it has a tendency to go undiagnosed. Most children with lead poisoning do not show any outward symptoms unless blood lead levels are extremely high. Consequently, many cases go undiagnosed
  2. Large exposure affects development of brain, especially in children and lowers IQ.
  3. Lead exposure also makes the body susceptible to anemia as it prevents formation of hemoglobin. Lead replaces minerals, notably iron and calcium, in the body and prevents hemoglobin
  4. It also increases risk of early death.
In several developing countries, there is no established recommendation for lead levels in food or blood. There is a lack of regulation and implementation of standards. Even today in India, lead content in paints manufactured for decorative purposes varies widely. Producers of traditional medicines do not display their lead content appropriately. Its presence in bottled water and childrenā€˜s toys is never disclosed.
  1. The first target should be industries like toys and food additives which impact children the most in their formative stages.
  2. While larger paint manufactures adhere to BIS norms, the smaller manufacturers also need to be regulated properly to ensure compliance.
  3. Strict labelling guidelines for all consumer industries containing lead.
  4. The government should incentivize shift from lead-acid batteries to more efficient but expensive Li-Po batteries through subsidies and tax breaks.
  5. Strict guidelines about lead concentration should be laid down by the government for different sectors and mass awareness campaigns should be launched.
  6. All district-level hospitals must have facilities to test and monitor blood lead levels
The fact that lead poisoning is a wide spread problem which impacts our children’s development the most places a moral responsibility on our government and the industries to ensure that the damage due to lead exposure are mitigated as far as possible.



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