Lead is one of the better-known toxic heavy metals which occurs naturally in the earth, and it is very toxic to humans and all life. Leads damages the detoxification organs (liver and kidneys), and harms the reproductive and nervous systems. In fact, it is harmful to all systems in the body. Children are especially vulnerable to the negative health effects of lead, since their nervous systems (and whole bodies) are still developing.
- Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the foetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead crosses the placental barrier exposing the foetus the lead.
- Lead is a systemic poison and neurotoxin that causes brain damage and is most harmful to children and pregnant women. Exposure to lead causes serious ailments such as wrist drop, also known as radial nerve palsy, memory loss, reduced sperm count in men and miscarriage in women.
- The brain, kidney and arteries are the most vulnerable part of the body to lead poisoning. Lead’s effect on the brain is similar to that of drug abuse. The cerebellum is a main target of drug abuse and addiction (such as cocaine, heroin, phencyclidine), and environmental toxins (such as mercury, lead, manganese, toluene/benzene derivatives).”
- Automobiles are a major source of lead poisoning as Lead is used in the Vulcanising of tyres to improve their strength and life. As the tyres wear out in traffic, this lead in a fine form, escapes into the air. As we breathe in this air it is absorbed into our blood stream damaging our arteries. It settles on our skin causing skin irritation and pigmentation, which is very common specially in ladies those who live in the urban world.
The weights, which are put on tyres to balance them so that they do not vibrate, often fall off during driving. They then get crushed by cars and contaminate the air and water. Studies indicate that 7,250 tonnes of lead fall from tyres of passenger cars every year.
- There are 141.8 million registered vehicles in India. A car normally has 250 grams of lead weight clipped to its wheels. This means at least 36,250 tonnes of lead are used as balancing weights in the country. Now, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency says 13 per cent of wheel balancing weights in cars fall off every year in the US. In India, it should be around 20 per cent because of the poor road conditions—which means at least 7,250 tonnes of lead gets introduced every year into the air and water in India.
- Lead can also be present in the glazes of certain types of ceramic cookware, especially glazed cookware from China or Mexico. So use food grade stainless steel, (304, 316 or 430 grade), cast iron, glass, earthenware or enamelware to ensure you’re not getting exposed to lead in your food. Using poor quality stainless steel can also expose you to nickel or chromium poisoning.
Lead forms many useful compounds.
- Lead arsenate (Pb3(AsO4)2) has been used as an insecticide although other, less harmful, substances have now largely replaced it.
- Lead sulphate (PbSO4), also known as anglesite, is used in a paint pigment known as sublimed white lead.
- Lead chromate (PbCrO4), also known as crocoite, is used to produce chrome yellow paint.
- Lead nitrate (Pb(NO3)2) is used to make fireworks and other pyrotechnics.
- Lead silicate (PbSiO3) is used to make some types of glass and in the production of rubber and paints.
- Lead monoxide (PbO), also known as litharge, is a yellow solid that is used to make some types of glass, such as lead crystal and flint glass, in the vulcanising of rubber and as a paint pigment.
- Another economically significant compound of lead in the +2 oxidation state is lead acetate, Pb(C2H3O2)2, a water-soluble salt made by dissolving litharge in concentrated acetic acid. The common form, the trihydrate, Pb(C2H3O2)2·3H2O, called sugar of lead, is used as a mordant in dyeing and as a drier in certain paints. In addition, it is utilised in the production of other lead compounds and in gold cyanidation plants
- Lead carbonate (PbCO3), also known as cerussite, is a white, poisonous substance that is widely used as a pigment for white paint. Use of lead carbonate in paints has largely been stopped in favour of titanium oxide (TiO2). Various other salts, most notably basic lead carbonate, basic lead sulphate, and basic lead silicate, were once widely employed as pigments for white exterior paints. Since the mid-20th century, however, the use of such so-called white lead pigments has decreased substantially because of a concern over their toxicity and attendant hazard to human health.
However cheaper paints can still contain substantial amounts of lead so buying paints look for lead free paints. Substantial lead toxicity occurs when pain is being removed by sandpapering and removing old paint from your house.
Health problems associated with Lead poisoning in children include-
- Behavioural disruptions such as aggression, impulsive behaviour and hyperactivity
- Learning problems :- Lower IQ
- Slowed growth
- Hearing Problems.
Lead poisoning In adults and children can cause:
- Accelerated arteriosclerosis,
- Disruption of the biosynthesis of haemoglobin and anaemia
- A rise in blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Miscarriages and abortions
- Disruption of nervous systems
- Brain damage
- Declined fertility of men through sperm damage
- In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.