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14 March 2018, 04:13 | Randall Craig
Lead was used in petrol for decades despite its toxicity. Its use was phased out in the 1990sBEN GURR FOR THE TIMES
"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".
However, the new study from Prof.
Lead was added to petrol until the 1990s to boost engine compression, and was also widely used to improve the performance of household paint before being banned in the U.S. in 1978 and the European Union in 1992 "after concerns over the effects it was having on the environment and children's brains", adds the paper.
The link held even at low-level exposure to lead.
Nobody had even tried to estimate the number of deaths caused by lead exposure using a nationally representative sample of adults.
Up to 412,000 deaths a year in the US can be attributed to lead exposure, according to a new study published Monday in The Lancet Pubilc Health.
Subjects were enrolled in the study between 1988 and 1994.
Disclosure: Lanphear reports serving as an expert witness in plaintiff cases of childhood lead poisoning in Milwaukee and Flint, Michigan, but receives no personal compensation.
"Our study estimates the impact of historical lead exposure on adults now aged 44 years old or over in the United States of America, whose exposure to lead occurred in the years before the study began", explains Prof.
"Despite the striking reductions in concentrations of lead in blood over the past 50 years, amounts found nowadays in adults are still ten times to 100 times higher than people living in the pre-industrial era".
Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study adds to the substantial evidence that exposure to lead can have long-term consequences".
Between 1988 and 1994, U.S. experts gave blood-lead tests to 30,000 randomly selected Americans, from infants to the elderly, then followed up with people in 2011. Of those, 1,801 died from cardiovascular disease and 988 passed away from heart disease.
For example, people with the highest lead levels were more likely to be men, smokers, and less educated, with poorer diets, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Mr Lanphear's team followed 14,300 people for 20 years, measuring how much lead was in their blood in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Researchers analyzed blood and urine tests from 14,289 patients older than 20 years (mean geometric concentration of lead in blood, 2.71 µg/dL). Of these, around 256,000 are from CVD.
The scientists concluded that lead exposure is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and many more disorders, including some of a neurological nature.
"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 exposure".
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