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Sharp rise in lead poisoning cases, India becoming “world capital of lead poisoning"

Written By Gopal Krishna on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | 1:42 AM

Note: Lead (Pb) is a highly toxic metal. It does not have any known physiological benefits. Routes of exposure to lead include contaminated air, water, soil, food, and consumer products. It causes serious health problems on the nervous system, heme biosynthesis, kidneys, reproductive system, hepatic, hearing, endocrinal, gastrointestinal, blood pressure and cardiovascular system. Poisoning by organic lead compounds has symptoms predominantly in the central nervous system, such as insomnia, delirium, cognitive deficits, tremor, hallucinations, and convulsions. Inorganic lead found in paint, food, and most lead-containing consumer products is only minimally absorbed through the skin. The main sources of absorption of inorganic lead are from ingestion and inhalation. Currently 64% of world lead production goes to lead acid battery. It will rise to 70% of world lead production. 

Gopal Krishna
 ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

There is an alarming increase of cases of lead poisoning across the country. Across our major cities, doctors are expressing concern at this “silent epidemic”.
Officials from SRL Diagnostics claimed that they receive 600 samples every month for Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy which detects metal content in human body fluids. From these, 350 samples were found to contain lead followed by Copper (125), Zinc (50) and other metals such as Arsenic, Mercury and Chromium.

National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning (NRCLP) director Dr Venkatesh Thuppil in Bangalore has warned that India is on the verge of becoming the “world capital of lead poisoning”.
 
One of the main reasons for this is that while the government is promoting solar energy in a major way, with India expected to generate 12.3 gigawatts of electricity, little has been done to highlight that these would release huge quantities of lead pollution.
 
“Off grid solar power uses lead-acid batteries which are difficult to recycle. This problem is becoming manifest in Bihar which presently has the highest density of solar panels but where the extended producer responsibility of recycling these lead-acid batteries is unheard of,” said Gopal Krishna heading Toxics Watch Alliance.
 
Severe cases of lead poisoning occurs as an occupational hazard among people working in the metal industry. But with several household items containing hazardous waste including mobile phones, car batteries etc. state governments are expressing concern at the large number of factories where goods are being recycled in blatant violation of all environmental norms.
 
Spent batteries house up to 40 pounds of lead, which can cause high blood pressure, kidney damage and abdominal pain in adults, and serious developmental delays and behavioral problems in young children because it interferes with neurological development.
 
Unfortunately, lead poisoning occurs over a period of time and patients generally come to hospitals with a range of complaints making it difficult to diagnose.

A recent study undertaken by St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences and the NRCLP has found that 35 per cent of the kids had higher than permissible levels of lead which could be attributed to painted toys and leaded paint in school buildings.

Jun 12, 2013 - Rashme Sehgal, ASIAN AGE 
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