Lead's Heart Disease Death Toll 10 Times Higher Than Thought, Study Suggests

THIS causes one in five deaths- are you at risk

THIS causes one in five deaths- are you at risk

"Our study calls into question the assumption that specific toxicants, like lead, have "safe levels", and suggests that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death in the United States of America, particularly from cardiovascular disease", Professor Lanphear added. There's also ongoing exposure from foods, emissions from industrial sources and contamination from lead smelting sites and lead batteries, the researchers explained.

"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".

Middle-aged people are especially vulnerable to past exposure, with lead in traffic fumes, paint and plumbing responsible.

Lanphear analyzed earlier USA government research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Professor Lanphear said: "Our study calls into question the assumption that specific toxicants like lead have "safe levels" and suggests that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death".

He said: "The estimated number of deaths from all causes and cardiovascular disease that were attributable to concentrations of lead in blood were surprisingly large; indeed, they were comparable with the number of deaths from current tobacco smoke exposure".

Around 14,300 participants were followed for nearly 20 years.

People with high levels of at least 6.7mg were twice as likely to die from ischaemic heart disease compared with people having low levels of lead in their blood. All participants underwent a medical examination and a test on their lead level. "The information that emerges from this reassessment will increase understanding of lead's contribution to mortality from non-communicable diseases, could foster collaboration between the environmental and chronic disease research communities, guide realignment of cardiovascular disease prevention strategies, and ultimately save lives".

THIS causes one in five deaths- are you at risk
GETTYTHIS causes one in five deaths- are you at risk

But efforts to reduce environmental lead exposure is still vital, he said.

In children, lead exposure may cause developmental, behavioral, and learning problems, as well as anemia and problems with hearing. Over the last 10 years, research has found an array of health effects in adults at low levels; the US Department of Health and Human Services published a monograph in 2012 showing that even very low blood lead levels raised a person's risk for hypertension, heart disease, and reduced kidney function.

Lead author Professor Bruce Lanphear said that many people in the study were actually exposed to lead before they were being analysed.

This led researchers to conclude that 28.7 per cent of premature cardiovascular disease deaths were linked to lead exposure.

The average level of lead found in the participants' blood was 2.7 μg/dL.

They were not, however, able to factor out the possible impact of exposure to arsenic or air pollution.

During the observation, which took more than 20 years, 4422 people died prematurely, out of which more than 1800 died from cardiovascular diseases and approximately 1,000 from ischemic heart disease.

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