Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Lead poisoning in children has assumed alarming proportions in the absence of a national policy fixing the maximum level of this heavy metal in the blood, says Dr Venkatesh Thuppil

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Lead poisoning in children has assumed alarming
proportions in the absence of a national policy fixing the maximum
level of this heavy metal in the blood.

In India, about 18 per cent of children show unacceptable level of
lead in their blood. Though the World Health Organisation has
prescribed the upper limit of blood lead level as 10 micrograms per
decilitre as “level of concern”, the Indian government seems to be
ignorant about this, Dr Venkatesh Thuppil, principal adviser, National
Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India, told this correspondent.

“Multiple studies establish the link between blood lead levels less
than 10 micrograms per decilitre in children and adverse health
effects, including cognitive impairment, and decreased cardiovascular
and renal function. There is innumerable scientific evidence of
adverse consequences for children with level of lead in the blood well
below the level of 10 microgram per decilitre,” Dr Venkatesh said
demanding that the Central government should immediately come out with
a national policy on lead levels in the blood of children.

He said the National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India
conducted a study in which it was found that “over 18 per cent of
children had unacceptable level of lead in their blood causing
concern.” Neither the Health Ministry nor the Environmental Ministry
appears to be concerned about this, he regretted.

Stating that the effects of lead (childhood lead poisoning) appear to
be irreversible, he demanded that the Central and the State
governments should adopt a primary prevention strategy to emphasize
the prevention of lead exposure, rather than just respond to exposures
after they have already taken place.

Referring to the US decision to reduce the upper limit of lead level
in blood of children from 10 microgram per decilitre to 5 microgram
per decilitre, Dr Venkatesh said India should follow suit and regulate
lead in paints and other consumer products, and reduce lead emissions
from industries including lead battery manufacturing and recycling.

“Childhood lead poisoning is totally preventable. Lead poisoning
reduces IQ of children during growth and development and harms a
child's brain, kidneys and other organs,” he said.

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