Lead in the Environment

  • Date: Jan 01 1972
  • Policy Number: 7211

Key Words: Occupational Health And Safety

Poisoning of children caused by lead-based paint ingestion is new to documentation. Lead poisoning, however, is a problem not limited to the young and not caused solely by paint ingestion. Many sources of, in transport media for, lead and lead compounds have been documented, making virtually all segments of our population subject to excessive lead burden. It is estimated that in manufacturing services industries alone 1.6 million employes are exposed to the poisoning effects of lead.

Lead is not degradable and, once in the environment, does not disappear naturally. Small amounts of lead routinely released into the environment can potentially accumulate to a critical level.

Recommendations for Action

Research, federally coordinated and funded is needed to:

  1. Determine human blood lead levels, regardless of age or of the lead source, at which damage may be done (i.e., at the cellular metabolism level) whether or not actual clinical symptoms are observable;
  2. Determine the impact on biological symptoms of long-term chronic exposure to slightly elevated lead burden as opposed to actual slug dosage;
  3. Determine the circumstances under which lead stored in long bones can be mobilized, thus causing damage (i.e., damage to the fetus of a pregnant woman because of lead);
  4. Develop standardized techniques for collection and analyses of biological and non-biological samples.
  5. Environmental Cleanup: Federal monies should be made available to state and local governments for de-leading those portions of the environment known to be contaminated;

Monitoring and Surveillance:
Federal financial participation in a nation-wide network for lead monitoring of air, water, foods, soils, and humans should be vastly expanded;

Educational Programs:
A concerted effort is necessary to alert industrial safety officers, the medical and allied health personnel, as well as the general public, to the dangers and possible sources of lead;

Legislation:
Strong local, state, and federal laws are needed to significantly restrict the release of lead or lead compounds to the atmosphere or water either directly or indirectly;

Diagnosis of Lead Intoxication:
The upper limits of lead in blood defined as that level at which research shows significant metabolic abnormalities occur, should be established.

APHA also recommends that:
Other toxic metals also receive special attention. It is grossly inefficient to study one metal and have to repeat studies and funding for successive metals already known to be toxic. Because of collection procedures, analytical tools, and in many cases the sources and transport media, are the same for many metals, it would seem most wise to include all in any large scale research or monitoring efforts.

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