Lead exposure causes one in three cardiovascular deaths

Are you concerned by the levels of lead in everyday items impacting your health? Source Flickr

Are you concerned by the levels of lead in everyday items impacting your health? Source Flickr

After looking at how many people died during this period-about 4,400 in total, 1,800 of those from cardiovascular disease-the study in the Lancet Public Health journal found about 256,000 deaths each year could be tied to lead exposure.

Lead was added to petrol until the 1990s to boost engine compression, and was also widely used to improve the performance of household paint before being banned in the USA in 1978 and the European Union in 1992 "after concerns over the effects it was having on the environment and children's brains", adds the paper.

Lead is a chemical element that is naturally present in soil and water.

Canadian scientists studied over 14-thousand older adults exposed to lead-based paints or other products before they were banned.

However, the new study from Prof.

For example, people with the highest lead levels were more likely to be men, smokers, and less educated, with poorer diets, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

For this latest research, Prof. There was a correlation for an increase in the concentration of lead in blood from 1.0 to 6.7 µg/dL (10th to 90th percentiles) with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and ischemic heart disease mortality (hazard ratios, 1.37, 1.70, and 2.08, respectively).

"No studies have estimated the number of deaths in the United States of America attributable to lead exposure using a nationally representative cohort, and it is unclear whether concentrations of lead in blood lower than 5 μg/dL, which is the current action level for adults in the United States of America, are associated with cardiovascular mortality", the researchers explain.

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The study used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III) for 14289 people in the US aged 20 years or older between 1988 and 1994, and the end of 2011.

Subjects were enrolled in the study between 1988 and 1994. All participants had a medical examination, including a blood test for lead - a measure of past and ongoing exposures to lead - and a urine test for cadmium at the start of the study.

"This study suggests that estimating the contribution of environmental lead exposure is essential to understand trends in cardiovascular disease mortality and develop comprehensive strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease", they concluded.

As many as 412,000 Americans die prematurely every year - mostly from cardiovascular disease - due to historic exposure to low levels of the toxic metal, a U.S. study suggests.

A study on "ubiquitous but insidious" lead exposure is being deemed a "big deal" after researchers found a link between lead exposure and the deaths of around a quarter-million Americans annually from heart disease.

Prof. Lanphear and team admit that there are some limitations to their research.

The authors note some limitations, including that their results rely on one blood lead test taken at the start of the study and therefore can not determine any effect of further lead exposure after the study outset.

Additionally, they note that they could not control for exposure to other contaminants that might affect cardiovascular health, such as arsenic or air pollution.

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