Monday, December 29, 2014

New research shows nearly half the children in Mexico impacted by lead poisoning

From: Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth
Published December 11, 2014 11:36 AM

December 11, 2014 – In November 2014, the journal Annals of Global Health published "Blood Lead Levels in Mexico and Pediatric Burden of Disease." The research concluded that although blood lead levels (BLL) have decreased significantly in Mexico over the past 35 years, they remain significantly elevated. In urban areas, the post-leaded gasoline average BLL is still more than 4.5 times higher than the level in the US (5.52 vs 1.2 ug/dL).

Researchers in the study estimate that this will result in 820,000 disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost, with a lead-induced loss of as much as 5 IQ points on average in Mexican children aged 0 to 4 alone. And this is considering children in urban areas alone. In rural areas, where robust data was not available, the results are expected to be much worse.

This means that nearly half the population of Mexican children have a BLL that is above the threshold where intelligence and behavior is affected. To compare, only 2.5% of children in the United States hit this threshold.

The cause is traditional Mexican pottery. Leaded glaze is used extensively throughout Mexico. Acid from spicy food causes lead from the glaze to leach into the food, and then into the people eating the food. And it stays in the body, affecting neurological development and causing other problems.

“The literature on health effects from lead exposure is extensive and definitive,” says Dr. Jack Caravanos, Director of Research for Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth. Lead toxicity has been linked to cognitive impairment (including but not necessarily limited to lowered IQs), cardiovascular effects, low birth weight, added economic costs, overall diminished life expectancy, and possibly even increased rates of violent crime.


The economic impacts of IQ loss and disease are significant. In the US, research has found that by reducing BLL by just 1 ug/dl, the country has achieved savings of $17.2 billion annually. Similar cost-benefit calculations in Mexico City alone have shown a net loss of $1 billion per year.


Mexico has a regulatory framework that prohibits the use of lead glazes in pottery. However, these regulations have not been enforced and there appear to be no active plans within government agencies to deal with this issue.
[This will please libertarians.]


Fortunately, there is a solution. A lead-free glaze, recently developed, works with boron instead of lead. It looks and works almost identically to the traditional leaded glazes. It burns in traditional low temperature kilns and has a lower cost than the traditional lead glaze. Artisans who have converted to it have been uniformly impressed, and have no plans to revert to lead-based glaze. And yet the vast majority of producers still use the traditional lead glazes. Less than 100 potters have converted to date, out of an approximated 40,000 active kilns.


Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth is an international non-profit environmental and health organization dedicated to identifying and cleaning up the poorest communities throughout the world where high concentrations of toxins have devastating health effects. For more information, visit


No comments:

Post a Comment