Lead Exposure Linked to 412000 Premature Deaths in US Each Year

Kenny Tucker
March 14, 2018

"Our study estimates the impact of historical lead exposure on adults now aged 44 years old or over in the US, whose exposure to lead occurred in the years before the study began", said study lead author Dr. Bruce Lanphear.

"No studies have estimated the number of deaths in the United States of America attributable to lead exposure using a nationally representative cohort, and it is unclear whether concentrations of lead in blood lower than 5 µg/dL ( 0.24 mol/L), which is the current action level for adults in the United States of America, are associated with cardiovascular mortality", they added.

But efforts to reduce environmental lead exposure is still vital, he said.

The researchers analyzed data from 14,300 people in the United States, covering almost 20 years.

Around 14,300 participants were followed for nearly 20 years.

Between 1988 and 1994, USA experts gave blood-lead tests to 30,000 randomly selected Americans, from infants to the elderly, then followed up with people in 2011.

The condition is caused by muscle in the heart being starved of blood due to narrowed or blocked arteries.

Previous estimates, which assumed that low-level lead exposure did not increase the risk of premature death, produced substantially fewer deaths.

Using these risk levels, the authors also estimated the current proportion of deaths in adults aged 44 years or older in the U.S. that could have been prevented if historical exposure to lead had not occurred.

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Environmental lead exposure is a risk factor for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease mortality, according to a study published online March 12 in The Lancet Public Health.

Up to 412,000 deaths a year in the USA can be attributed to lead exposure, according to a new study published Monday in The Lancet Pubilc Health.

"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".

Lead author Professor Bruce Lanphear said that many people in the study were actually exposed to lead before they were being analysed.

Exposure occurs from lead that remains in the environment from historic use in fuel, paint and plumbing, as well as ongoing exposures from foods, emissions from industrial sources, and contamination from lead smelting sites and lead batteries. But only 20% of Americans now smoke, while lead exposure is more common, affecting 90% of people in the study.

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".

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.

Baseline blood lead levels ranged from less than 1 μg/dL to 56 μg/dL. The study conducted at Simon Fraser looked at 14,000 of those people who were 20 or older when tested, and examined relevant death certificates.

Tim Chico from the University of Sheffield said: "This study suggests that lead, or factors that increase people's exposure to lead, causes thousands more deaths every year than we previously recognised".

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