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Low levels of lead exposure kill an estimated 412,000 people per year in the US
Saturday, October 05, 2019 9:10 am Email this article
Low levels of lead exposure kill an estimated 412,000 people per year in the US according to a 2018 analysis of 14,289 adults who were followed for an average of 19.3 years.
“Our findings suggest that, of 2.3 million deaths every year in the USA, about 400,000 are attributable to lead exposure, an estimate that is about ten times [10X] larger than the current one,” the authors of the paper note.
“The key reason for this difference is because the previous estimate assumed cardiovascular disease was only evident at concentrations of lead in blood as low as 5 mcg/dL.”
“Our findings show that concentrations of lead in blood lower than 5 mcg/dL are associated with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and ischaemic heart disease mortality.”
“In our study, the estimated number of deaths from all causes and cardiovascular disease that were attributable to concentrations of lead in blood were surprisingly large; indeed, they were comparable with the number of deaths from current tobacco smoke exposure.”
They note that:
“Lead is one of many recognised risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In experimental studies, chronic exposure to lead caused hypertension and enhanced the development of atherosclerosis by inactivating nitric oxide, increasing formation of hydrogen peroxide, inhibiting endothelial repair, impairing angiogenesis, and promoting thrombosis.
“In human beings, higher concentrations of lead in blood have been associated with hypertension, electrocardiographic abnormalities, peripheral arterial disease, left-ventricular hypertrophy, and cardiovascular disease mortality.
“The concentration of lead in blood was associated with cardiovascular mortality in most, but not all, prospective cohort studies.
“Previous studies of cardiovascular disease mortality in lead-exposed populations have been criticised because they did not account for other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease mortality, such as cadmium.”
Lanphear BP, Rauch S, Auinger P, Allen RW, and Hornung RW. Low-level lead exposure and mortality in US adults: a population-based cohort study. Lancet Public Health, 2018 Apr; 3(4): e177-e184.
Author’s Contact Info
Prof. Bruce P. Lanphear
Faculty of Health Sciences
Simon Fraser University
Vancouver, BC V6H 3V4, Canada
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