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Study Finds Lead Exposure Causes 400,000 Deaths Every Year


Filling glass of tap water A study has found lead exposure may be responsible for more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. per year. This figure is much higher than previous estimates that were based on the assumption that low-level exposure didn’t pose a significant health hazard. The new research discovered that low exposure does, indeed, raise the risk of premature death, especially from cardiovascular disease, because it’s linked to hardening of the arteries, ischemic heart disease and high blood pressure.

Researchers tracked more than 14,000 adults who were exposed to low lead levels from the late ‘80s to the mid ‘90s. The results showed an initial blood lead concentration at the 90th percentile was associated with a 37-percent rise in deaths from all causes compared to a concentration at the 10th percentile. It was also linked to a 70-percent increase in deaths from cardiovascular disease.

The 90th percentile correlated with a blood lead level of 6.7 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), while the 10th percentile correlated with a level of 1.0 µg/dL. A high concentration is defined as 5.0 µg/dL.

Analysis of the data led the team to conclude that blood levels higher than 1 µg/dL are responsible for 412,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Of these, approximately 256,000 stem from cardiovascular disease. The findings remained after they were adjusted for contributing factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and body mass.

Low-Level Lead Exposure Is a Leading Risk Factor for Heart Disease Deaths

“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 USA, particularly from cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Dr. Bruce Lanphear, of Simon Fraser University, Canada.

“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. Currently, low levels of lead exposure are an important, but largely ignored risk factor for deaths from cardiovascular disease. Public health measures, such as abating older housing, phasing out lead-containing jet fuels, replacing lead-plumbing lines, and reducing emissions from smelters and lead battery facilities, will be vital to prevent lead exposure.”

Lead is present in soil and water. It was once added to a broad scope of products, including paint, plumbing and petrol, but after research showed that exposure to high quantities of the chemical were toxic, efforts have been made to reduce its use.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, young children are the most susceptible to the harmful effects of lead. Even low levels can result in anemia, hearing problems and lower IQ, along with learning and behavior problems. In adults, aside from the cardiovascular risks, lead exposure is connected to decreased kidney function and premature births.

“A recurrent theme in lead poisoning research has been the realization that lead has toxic effects on multiple organ systems at relatively low levels of exposure previously thought to be safe,” Dr. Philip Landrigan, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, wrote in an editorial published with the study. “A key conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that lead has a much greater impact on cardiovascular mortality than previously recognized.”

The study was published in The Lancet Public Health.

How to Reduce Your Lead Exposure

Oversight health agencies and other experts recommend a range of measures to lower your exposure, including the following:

  • Don’t eat or drink out of leaded crystal or imported pottery.
  • Install an NSF filter on your kitchen water faucet, and change the filter cartridge by the date on the package label.
  • If you don’t have an NSF filter, use only cold water from the tap for cooking and drinking.
  • Teach children to wash their hands, as well as wipe and remove their shoes after playing outdoors.

Eating a nutritious diet can also help because certain food components reduce the absorption of lead. Calcium-rich foods, such as yogurt, cheese and green leafy vegetables, will help keep lead out of the bones. Foods plentiful in iron, including beans, raisins and prunes, help block the harmful mineral’s absorption. In addition, foods with a high content of vitamin C, like citrus fruits and tomatoes, increase the absorption of iron, which aids in preventing lead from being assimilated into the body.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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