1 in 3 children poisoned by lead, UN warns
Upto 800 million children around the world are being poisoned by lead from water and air pollution, the United Nations warned Thursday in a special report on the “mas- sive and previously unknown” health crisis.
One out of every three chil- dren is estimated to have levels of lead -- a potent neurotoxin -- in their blood that require immediate action to prevent long-lasting damage, the UN’s children’s fund said.
“With few early symptoms, lead silently wreaks havoc on children’s health and develop- ment, with possibly fatal conse- quences,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director.
“Knowing how widespread lead pollution is -– and un- derstanding the destruction it causes to individual lives and communities –- must inspire urgent action to protect chil- dren once and for all.”
Childhood lead exposure has been linked to a range of behav- ioural problems, as well as kid- ney damage and cardiovascular conditions later in life.
The problem, which occurs overwhelmingly in South Asia, is estimated to cost low- and middle-income countries al- most $1 trillion over the chil- dren’s lifetimes.
Lead pollution comes from a variety of sources, including open-air furnaces, paint and petrol.
Lead piping in many coun- tries also produces dangerous levels of the chemical in drink- ing water supplies.
The UN report said a leading source of the toxin was un-re- cycled or poorly disposed-of car batteries. In countries where child lead poisoning is most prevalent, the number of ve- hicles on the road has doubled since 2000.
The analysis of childhood lead exposure was complied by the Institute of Health Met- rics Evaluation, a leading global health research group partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.