Spotlight: Unlead yourself

As International Lead Poisoning Prevention Awareness week begins, it is crucial to understand the hazards the element poses in our daily life.

Updated - May 23, 2016 05:32 pm IST

Published - October 18, 2014 04:17 pm IST

Lead paint in playgrounds can harm the children. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

Lead paint in playgrounds can harm the children. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

At the petrol bunk, the signboard ‘unleaded petrol’ means the fuel is devoid of the metal lead (Pb), which is different from the graphite we see in pencils.

Lead is a naturally available heavy metal, bluish in colour and has been used for various purposes for centuries. With the onset of the industrial age, the use of lead and lead products has increased because of it is soft, malleable, easy to melt and cost effective. It can be recycled too. Lead is used in paint, batteries, soldering, pottery glaze, window glaze, water and sewer piping, gasoline, stained glass, crystal vessels, ammunition, jewellery, toys and in some cosmetics and traditional medicines too. Given this widespread use, lead poisoning remains a matter of public health concern. The awareness of its toxic effects at exposure levels has gained a lot of importance in the recent years.

In many developing countries like ours, one of the major uses of lead is in paints, pigments and as a drier in varnishes and primers. Many NGOs like NRCLPI, INslar, Toxic Link and government departments are working to educate the public about this but the efforts are not sufficient. The government has to enforce stringent laws, as in developed countries, to control the use of lead in paints. The lead used in paints and its harmful effect on children in developing countries has drawn serious attention of the WHO, UNEP and GAELP, which are strongly advocating the elimination of lead in paints. They are also drawing the attention of policymakers and others concerned with the following message and action plan to conduct International Lead Poisoning Prevention Awareness week from October 19-25, 2014.

Be aware

Lead is poison. It has serious health consequences.

There is no safe amount of lead exposure.

Lead is particularly harmful to children and pregnant women, as it affects the brain and nervous systems.

Lead gets into the body mainly through ingestion and breathing in small particles.

Lead paint used in toys, playgrounds and other children’s products can end up in household dust.

What you can do

Wash your children’s hands to remove invisible lead dust.

Clean the house regularly to remove dust/dirt that may contain lead particles.

Ask for lead-free paint.

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