According to a WHO study, lead exposure is estimated to account for 1,43,000 deaths per year with the highest burden in developing regions. Recently, popular noodles 'Maggi' has come under regulatory scanner after samples collected in various parts of the country were found containing added monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead in excess of the permissible limit and its sale banned in many states.
"A pan-India analysis of 733 blood samples collected over last one year has revealed that 23.47 per cent (172 samples) of the total samples tested positive with Lead poisoning," Dr. Sandeep Warghade, Consulting Pathologist Metropolis Healthcare told reporters here.
Lead poisoning is a cumulative toxicant, particularly harmful to young children and can affect multiple body systems, he said. The analysis was done by the Metropolis Healthcare. He said lead poisoning is tested using high sensitivity technology called ICPMS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry) and Graphite Furnace Atomic absorption spectrometry. Blood, serum and urine samples can also be tested for lead.
In growing children, it causes low IQ, hyperactivity, attention deficit, learning disabilities and anaemia, he said. "Lead poisoning can be hard to detect even people who look healthy can have high levels of lead. At high levels of exposure, lead damages the brain and central nervous system and can lead to coma, convulsions and even death. Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning usually don't appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated," Warghade added.
He said major sources of blood lead include leaded contaminated soil, drinking water, petrol emissions, household dust, battery recycling, silver refining, paints (especially yellow), pigments, printing presses, ceramic pottery glazes, cosmetics, colours (including vermilion, spices, Holi colours), crayons and painted pencils, plant foods.
Warghade cautioned that lead poisoning cases in young children are high as they tend to lick or eat lead-containing paint when it peels off the walls or while playing with toys. Lead from a mother's blood can pass to the foetus during pregnancy, possibly giving rise to genetic disorders. "Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations. Women with high blood lead levels develop early osteoporosis, lower backache, joint pain and persistent anaemia," he said.