Historical Lead Exposure Possible Link to 256,000 Deaths in the US Each Year


Historical Lead Exposure Possible Link to 256,000 Deaths in the US Each Year


New estimates suggest that 256,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular disease — including 185,000 deaths from ischemic heart disease — in the USA may be linked to historical lead exposure in middle-aged and older adults (people currently aged 44 years or over), according to an observational study following 14,300 people for almost 20 years, published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

This new study finds that low-level lead exposure (between 1-5 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood) increases the risk of premature death, especially from cardiovascular disease. 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.

“Our study estimates the impact of historical lead exposure on adults currently aged 44 years old or over in the USA, whose exposure to lead occurred in the years before the study began,” says lead author Professor Bruce Lanphear, Simon Fraser University, Canada. The study used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 14289 people in the USA aged 20 years or older between 1988 and 1994, and the end of 2011.

After an average of 19.3 years, 4422 people died including 1801 from cardiovascular disease and 988 from heart disease. The average level of lead found in the participants’ blood was 2.7 µg/dL, but ranged from less than 1 to 56 µg/dL. One in five participants (3632 people) had levels of 5 µg/dL or more.

leadOverall, people who had high lead levels (6.7 µg/dL) were at 37% greater risk of premature death from any cause, 70% times greater risk of cardiovascular death, and double the risk of death from ischemic heart disease, compared with people with lower levels (1 µg/dL). 18% of all deaths every year in the USA (412,000/2.3 million) would be among people who had levels of lead above 1 µg/dL.

“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,” says Professor Lanphear. “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.”

Full credit to: https://www.sciencedaily.com/

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