Lead exposure causes deaths in the United States

Henrietta Strickland
March 13, 2018

Lanphear also said that no one at all had even tried to approximate the number of deaths engendered by lead exposure utilizing a nationally prototypical sample of adults.

An worldwide 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 can be exposed to lead via fuel, paint and plumbing, as well as around smelting sites or by handling lead batteries.

Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University and a leading author of the study said that the connection between lead subjection and high blood pressure has been an age old entity, the immensity of the outcome on cardiovascular temporality, specifically at lesser degree of lead exposure was substantial than expected.

Based on the findings, the researchers estimated each year more than 250,000 Americans die from heart disease due to traces of the toxic metal in the environment.

Using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 4,422 of the 14,289 participants died after an average of 19.3 years.

Researchers estimated that 28.7 per cent of cases of annual premature heart disease death in the United States could be attributed to lead - a total of 256,000 deaths per year.

The research found that people with high lead levels were at 37 per cent greater risk of premature death from any cause, 70 per cent times greater risk of cardiovascular death, and double the risk of death from ischemic heart disease, compared to those with lower levels.

The participants all had blood tests at the outset to measure past and current exposure to lead, as well as a urine test for the metal cadmium. But only 20% of Americans now smoke, while lead exposure is more common, affecting 90% of people in the study.

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".

"Estimating the contribution of low-level lead exposure is essential to understanding trends in cardiovascular disease mortality and developing comprehensive strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease".

Researchers said that it was possible these risk factors could confound the research and that scientists were unable to adjust for some other critical factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease, including air pollution.

The study's authors noted that outside factors could lead to "overestimation of the effect of concentrations of lead in blood, particularly from socioeconomic and occupational factors".

Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sheffield, said the research did not prove that lead causes cardiovascular disease but "shows a strong association between levels of lead in the blood and future risk of heart attack and dying".

Environmental exposure to low levels of lead hidden in paint, soil and plumbing systems could be responsible for hundreds of premature deaths every year, an global study suggests.

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