LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 11 Number 2, December 2010, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times (ISSN 1440-4966) & Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Guest Editor, Dr Chrissie Pickin. Editor-in-Chief: Anne Roberts

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Lead isotopes in study of air pollution crossing the Pacific

Air samples from two sites in the San Francisco Bay area showed lead particles from Asia reach at least as far as the California coast. The numbers of particles were highest in spring.

“The lead levels measured in this study were low – in the nanogram range. Any health effects from this type of exposure to lead are not known. Still, the lead serves as an efficient marker to map global movement of pollution and shows a constant, yet varied, source of contaminants.

The use of lead “fingerprints” to measure overseas movement of pollutants improves on previous indirect and complicated methods. One third of the lead in the samplers was from Asia and this may indicate that other pollutants also cross the ocean. See Wind whisks lead across the Pacific Ocean to California [re: Lead isotopes as an indicator of the Asian contribution to particulate air pollution in urban California Stephanie A. Ewing, John N. Christensen, Shaun T. Brown, Richard A. Vancuren, Steven S. Cliff, and Donald J. Depaolo. Environmental Science & Technology, 2010, 44 (23), pp 8911–8916]

Visiting environmental expert warns of toxins

Professor Paul Ehrlich warns of the danger of man-made chemicals accumulating in the environment and in living tissue, including that of human. The rapid growth of less developed countries threatens improvements in western countries in reducing emissions of toxins, he said. At the same time, there are many toxic compounds in the environment released by western industry, and which will be around for a long time.

‘We don’t know nearly enough about most of them or how they might affect our health in the long term, especially mixed together. There may be surprises ahead that we won’t like,’ said Professor Ehrlich. See Visiting environmental expert warns of toxins.

Germany sets new standards for blood lead levels

The policy paper by Michael Wilhelm, Birger Heinzow, Jürgen Angerer and Christine Schulz.  International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Volume 213, Issue 4, July 2010, Pages 265–269 "Reassessment of critical lead effects by the German Human Biomonitoring Commission results in suspension of the human biomonitoring values (HBM I and HBM II) for lead in blood of children and adults", written on behalf of the Human Biomonitoring Commission of the German Federal Environment Agency, replaces health-based blood lead levels of concern / “goals” with individual action levels (called “reference values” in Germany) which differ for each sub-population, and are based on the 95th percentile blood lead result in a blood lead survey for that sub-population. Wilhelm et al (2010) state that,

Based on the results of the German Environmental Survey for Children 2003/2006 (GerES IV), the HBM Commission has updated the reference values for blood lead levels for the group of children (Schulz et al., 2009):

  • Children (3–14 years of age): 35 μg Pb/l blood. (3.5 μg/dL)
  • The reference values for adults (Schulz et al., 2007), which are based on data from the German Environmental Survey of 1998, are:
  • Men: 90 μg Pb/l blood. 9 μg/dL
  • Women: 70 μg Pb/l blood. 7 μg/dL

Christine Schulz, Jürgen Angerer, Ulrich Ewers, Ursel Heudorf, Michael Wilhelme, on behalf of the Human Biomonitoring Commission of the German Federal Environment Agency, Revised and new reference values for environmental pollutants in urine or blood of children in Germany derived from the German Environmental Survey on Children 2003-2006 (GerES IV), International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. Volume 212, Issue 6, November 2009, Pages 637–647, available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1438463909000753

Schulz, C., Angerer, J., Ewers, U., Kolossa-Gehring, M, 2007, The German Human Biomonitoring Commission, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. Volume 210, Issues 3–4, 22 May 2007, Pages 373–382, available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1438463907000466

The LEAD Group produces national policy proposals for Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council

In early December 2010, The LEAD Group web-published its proposed policy for adoption by the NHMRC, together with a very detailed background paper supporting the proposals. Research supporting lowering of acceptable blood lead levels around the world has also been recently web-published. There is now an overwhelming body of evidence on the dangers of a blood lead level above two and below 10 micrograms per deciliter – ie below the current NHMRC goal in Australia. Robert Taylor has revised our summaries of 35 research journal and medical news articles on both children and adults, and added new summaries for a total of 34 articles regarding unacceptable health effects at these “low” blood lead levels in children, and 15 articles on lead’s effects in adults.

‘An Entirely Preventable Disease’ - WHO issues booklet on Childhood Lead Poisoning

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a 74 page booklet, Childhood Lead Poisoning, which finds that prevention of lead poisoning is more cost-effective than vaccination. ‘Prevention is the best way to deal with lead poisoning,’ since, ‘for the most part, these effects [of lead poisoning] are permanent. They are irreversible and untreatable by modern medicine.’ ‘At lower levels of exposure [less than 5 ug/dL] that cause no obvious symptoms and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury.’ As ‘there appears to be no threshold level below which lead causes no injury to the developing human brain’ WHO also declared in June 2010 that there is no safe level of lead in food.

In other news from WHO, they advise that they are considering The LEAD Group’s proposal that WHO declare an “International Lead Poisoning Awareness Week”.

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