US Deaths Tied to 'Ubiquitous but Insidious' Lead: 410K a Year

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An global study has found that low-level lead exposure could be responsible for 30 per cent of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease in the United States. The risk factor is even higher for people with cardiovascular disease, given that lead exposure is linked to high blood pressure, the hardening of the arteries and ischemic (coronary) heart disease.

People with high levels of at least 6.7mg were twice as likely to die from ischaemic heart disease compared with people having low levels of lead in their blood.

People with higher lead exposure were 37-percent more likely to die prematurely from any cause.

"In other words, they aren't saying that current exposure to lead in the environment is the main thing here, as much of the exposure would have been in the past when regulation was much less strict than it is now".

Exposure to traces of lead in petrol and paint may be linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year.

"What this study suggests is there's no apparent safe level" for adults, said the principal author of the study, Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University, in Canada.

TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) - Environmental lead exposure is a risk factor for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease mortality, according to a study published online March 12 in The Lancet Public Health. Lanphear and colleagues suggests that even lower levels of lead exposure can pose significant harm to health.

At the outset, 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.

Researchers warned outside factors could lead to an "overestimation of the effect of concentrations of lead in blood, particularly from socioeconomic and occupational factors".

Overall, they found that up to 18% of all deaths every year in the United States of America (412000/2.3 million) would be among people who had levels of lead above 1 µg/dL.

These results remained after accounting for a number of possible confounding factors, including participants' age, sex, body mass index (BMI), diet, smoking status, and alcohol intake. For example, they point out that their study relied on a single blood test from each subject at baseline, so they were unable to determine the "effect of further lead exposure". "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".

According to Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who was not involved in the study, the contaminant could increase the risk of plaque formation and arteriosclerosis by causing endothelial damage.

The figures quoted apply to the U.S., and it is unclear how levels of lead exposure in Britain compare, but "if results were similar in this country it would mean 100,000 deaths a year could be linked to past lead pollution", says The Times. A key conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that lead has a much greater impact on cardiovascular mortality than previously recognized...

"It's a big deal and it's largely been ignored when it comes to cardiovascular disease deaths".

Note: The authors note that these estimates are comparable to the annual number of deaths in the U.S. in people who now smoke (483000 deaths a year).

AFP/GETTYTHIS causes one in five deaths - are you at risk?