Lead Exposure Deaths Higher Than Believed

Over 400K deaths per year attributed to contamination

A new study indicates that lead exposure may be responsible for 10 times as many deaths each year as previously believed.

Published last week in The Lancet Public Health, the study tracked over 14,000 adults for a period of over 20 years. The findings showed individuals with an initial blood lead concentration at the 90th percentile had a 37% increase in all-cause mortality and a 70% increase in cardiovascular disease mortality compared to those with a blood lead concentration at the 10th percentile.

Now, researchers believe lead exposure can be attributed to approximately 412,000 deaths in the United States each year, a tenfold increase from previous statistics. The link between lead exposure and high blood pressure has been known for years, but these findings suggest the magnitude of its impact may have been wildly underestimated.

“Nobody had even tried to estimate the number of deaths caused by lead exposure using a nationally representative sample of adults,” said Bruce Lanphear, professor of health science at Simon Fraser University and lead author of the study.

“But if we’re underestimating the impact of lead exposure on cardiovascular disease mortality and other important outcomes beyond IQ, then it might have a big impact on the way we make investments in preventing lead poisoning exposure.”

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