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Lead Poisoning May Accelerate Death for Millions in US

15 March 2018

"Previous studies of cardiovascular disease mortality in lead-exposed populations have been criticized because they did not account for other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease mortality, such as cadmium", Bruce P. Lanphear, MD, of the department of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues wrote.

It is important to know about the causes for many diseases and about the things that can affect your health in a major way. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to remove workers from exposure when their blood lead levels rise to 50 µg/dL in the construction industry or 60 µg/dL in other industries, and they can return to work when their blood lead levels go down to 40 µg/dL.

An global study has found that low-level lead exposure could be responsible for 30 per cent of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease in the United States.

People with higher lead exposure were 37-percent more likely to die prematurely from any cause.

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The study, which was published in The Lancet Public Health journal this week, tracked more than 14,000 adults over a period of about 20 years.

People are more likely to suffer health complications from smoking, but lead exposure is far more common.

However, they acknowledged the use of a single baseline lead value to predict outcomes over the following 20 years was not ideal; serial measurements may have been more informative.

In a press release, the authors noted some limitations to their research, "including that their results rely on one blood lead test taken at the start of the study and therefore can not determine any effect of further lead exposure after the study outset".

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The researchers called for more aggressive measures to retire contaminated housing, phase out lead-laden jet fuels, replace lead pipes in plumbing, and reduce emissions from smelters and lead battery factories. There was a correlation for an increase in the concentration of lead in blood from 1.0 to 6.7 µg/dL (10th to 90th percentiles) with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and ischemic heart disease mortality (hazard ratios, 1.37, 1.70, and 2.08, respectively).

Professor Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics at the Open University, said: "The researchers make a very important point in their report - that it is more accurate to view this study as estimating how many deaths might have been prevented if historical exposures to lead had not occurred".

Exposure to traces of lead in petrol and paint may be linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year. This is given by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually.

The study concluded that almost 30 percent of all deaths due to cardiovascular disease - basically, heart attacks and strokes - "could be attributable to lead exposure". A total of 4,422 people died during a median follow-up of 19.3 years: 38 percent from cardiovascular disease and 22 percent from ischemic heart disease.

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Lead Poisoning May Accelerate Death for Millions in US