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Toxic Lead – Still Here, Still Harming

It is the WHO International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week from 24th to 30th October. Unicef estimate that 186,117 to 281,542 UK children have dangerous concentrations of lead in their blood. This could be costing the country 0.31% of GDP or £6bn per year

The UK stopped using lead in paint, pipes and petrol decades ago, but the toxic legacy remains. 82% of homes were built before lead paint was banned, an estimated 9 million homes still have lead pipes, lead from petrol and paint is still found in soil; and lead exposure can come from many continuing sources

President Biden said that lead pipes are  “a clear and present danger to our children” and proposed spending $45bn to fix the problem. The US EPA says lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat to children ages six and younger. The UK’s use of lead has been similar to the USA. 

Lead toxicity can cause a wide range of health problems including:
·         Reproductive – miscarriage, pre-term birth, low birth weight, delayed puberty
·         Neurological – IQ loss, decreased hearing
·         Psychological – problem behaviours, ADHD, depression, anxiety, panic
·         Cardiovascular – heart attack, stroke, increased blood pressure
·         Renal – reduced kidney function

The LEAPP Alliance is a group of academics, service providers, advocates and parents who are campaigning to achieve improvements in the UK response to continued lead exposure. Our current objectives include achieving:
1.     Screening of children for elevated blood lead concentrations (EBLC)
2.     Research into the prevalence of EBLCs in children and pregnancy
3.     Training and accreditation of employers and workers
4.     Policies to cut lead exposure and toxicity including inclusion in the following:
a.     “Giving Every Child The Best Start In Life” programme
b.     Healthy Homes and Buildings White Paper
c.     NHS Long-term Plan
5.     Ensuring the UK matches the new, lower EU limits on lead in food
6.     Provision of more information on the dangers of lead exposure to the following:
a.     Health care providers, particularly GPs
b.     Housing leaders – tenants and housing associations, professional bodies
c.     Tradesmen and DIYers

There are many low-cost interventions that can help reduce lead exposure, which is a “health problem with a housing solution”, that impacts disadvantaged children the most.

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