Tag Archives: lead

The era of leaded gasoline is officially over – and it’s a big deal

Every country in the world has now stopped using leaded petrol for cars and trucks, following Algeria’s recent decision to no longer use the toxic fuel, the UN said. Algeria had been the last country to phase out leaded gasoline.

The news is considered a big win for public health and the environment, after a century of leaded petrol contaminating air, soil and water and seriously affecting people’s health. 

Image credit: Flickr / Steve Snodgrass.

Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal that can be found in Earth’s crust, especially where volcanic activities happen. It has a low melting point, is easily molded, and can be combined with other metals to form alloys — which is why humans have been using it in one form or another for millennia.

Back in 1921, General Motors discovered that adding a leaded compound (Tetraethyl) to gasoline improved engine performance. There were other additives that could also do the trick (such as ethanol) but lead quickly became the new norm. It was well-known at the time that lead was toxic and dangerous to people’s health, but automakers said the public wouldn’t be harmed by the exposure. 

Turns out, this wasn’t the case.

We are all vulnerable to the exposure of even low amounts of lead, particularly children. The use of leaded gasoline has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and cancer, among other health problems. Lead has also polluted the air, dust, soil, drinking water, and crops for much of the past century.

Almost all gasoline produced around the world contained lead by the 1970s, the UN estimates. Aware of the problems that lead has generated, the UN started the global Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), seeking to end the use of leaded gasoline globally. Now, with Algeria stopping its sale, the goal has officially been met.

“The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) said in a statement. “We are invigorated to change humanity’s trajectory for the better through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility.”

A long-awaited goal

Wealthy countries were the ones to phase out leaded gasoline first. In the United States, vehicles were designed to run on unleaded gasoline starting in the 1970s. While unleaded gasoline was more expensive, it became the norm in the US by the mid-1980’s – although leaded fuel wasn’t fully banned for passenger cars until 1996.

Other rich countries followed the US shortly after, but that wasn’t the case for most of the developing world, where leaded gasoline continued to be used after the 2000s. UNEP’s efforts helped accelerate the transition. North Korea, Afghanistan and Myanmar stopped selling leaded fuel by 2016, leaving a handful of countries still not banning its use. 

The UN estimates that the end of the use of leaded petrol will prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths a year, increase IQ points in children and save almost $3 trillion for the global economy. It will also support the fulfillment of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and restoring ecosystems, especially urban.

Now, the next challenge will be to phase out fossil fuels in cars and enforce the use of cleaner fuel, the UN said. While many countries are incorporating electric cars, 1.2 billion new vehicles will be sold in the coming decades – many of which will use fossil fuels. This is especially the case in developing countries, with fewer EVs in the market.

“We urge these same stakeholders to take inspiration from this enormous achievement to ensure that now that we have cleaner fuels, we also adopt cleaner vehicles standards globally – the combination of cleaner fuels and vehicles can reduce emissions by more than 80%,” Andersen said in a statement.

Traces of toxic lead from Notre Dame fire found in Parisian honey

When it burned last year, the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris released hazardous lead dust that landed in parks and buildings across the city, raising health alarms for its residents. Now, researchers have found that the lead found its way into honey produced by urban beehives.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers analyzed concentrations of metals, including lead, in 36 honey samples collected from Parisian hives in July 2019. All the honey was within tolerable limits for consumption, but the honey from hives near Notre Dame had lead concentrations four times higher than the samples from Parisian suburbs.

“Because of the way the wind was blowing the night the fire burned, the direction that the smoke plume traveled is well-defined. The elevated lead concentrations were measured in honey that was collected from beehives within that plume footprint,” said Kate Smith, lead author of the study, in a press release.

Smith and her team compared the honey obtained after the fire with a Parisian blend from 2018 and with samples from 2017 from the region of Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes. A sample from a hive five kilometers west of Notre Dame had the highest concentration of lead, 0.08 micrograms, while the pre-fire honey had 0.009 micrograms.

The European Union allows a maximum lead content of 0.10 micrograms per gram for syrups, sweeteners, and juices. Lead is a potent neurotoxin and a high exposure to it can kill, while lower levels can lead to health problems, such as cognitive and physical damage and shortened attention spans.

Lead was a highly used building material in Paris during the time of the construction of Notre Dame, which dates back to the 12th century. The roof and the spire of the cathedral had several hundred tons of lead and while most melted during the fire, some flames reached temperatures high enough to aerosolize lead oxides.

“We were able to show that honey is also a helpful tracer for environmental pollution during an acute pollution event like the Notre-Dame fire. It is no surprise, since increased amounts of lead in dust or topsoil, both of which were observed in neighborhoods downwind of the Notre Dame fire, are a strong indicator of increased amounts of lead in honey,” said co-author Dominique Weis.

The fact that honey bees usually forage within a two- to three-kilometer radius of their hive allowed the researchers to use honey as a localized snapshot of the environment. Bees collect dust and airborne particles, which then end up in the honey. The researchers worked with an apiary company, which manages 350 hives in Paris and provided them with the samples for the study.

It’s the first time a heavy-metal analysis through honey has been done in a megacity. The method came out of previous work by the same researchers, in which they measured trace amounts of metals in honey from urban beehives in six Metro Vancouver neighborhoods, demonstrating the use of bees as an effective biomonitor.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Letters.

A third of the world’s children are exposed to lead, report shows

Around one in every three children are exposed to dangerous concentrations of lead, with the vast majority living in poor countries, according to new research, which has warned about long-term health damage.

Credit Flickr

The Toxic Truth report published by UNICEF said that around 800 million children and young people under the age of 19 are likely to have levels of lead at or above 5 micrograms per decilitre (5μg/dl) in their blood.

There’s no safe level of exposure to lead, according to the World Health Organization, as even at low concentrations it acts as a dangerous toxin. But levels above 5μg/dl are considered by the US Centers for Disease Control as a cause for action.

“This is an absolutely shocking figure,” Nicholas Rees, a policy specialist at Unicef and author of the report, told The Guardian. “We have known for so long about the toxic nature of lead, but we have not known how widespread it is, and how many children are affected.”

Lead is a potent neurotoxin and high exposure to it can kill, while lower levels can cause symptoms that lead to lower IQ scores, shortened attention spans and even violent and criminal behavior later in life. Children can even be born prematurely when exposed to lower levels in the womb.

Children under the age of 5 years are at the greatest risk of suffering lifelong neurological, cognitive and physical damage and even death from lead poisoning. Older children and adults, as well, suffer severe consequences from prolonged exposure to lead in food, water and the air they breathe, including kidney damage and cardiovascular disease.

The role of lead

Richard Fuller of Pure Earth, an NGO that collaborated with Unicef on the report, told The Guardian that people were less aware of the damage caused by lead, after campaigns to remove the toxin from many common uses in developed countries decades ago. “We did a terrific job of taking lead out of petrol but the use of lead has plateaued after falling in the 1970s and 80s,” he said.

Scientists now have more extensive knowledge of the damage caused by lead even at low concentrations than they did previously. For example, the US used to consider levels above 10μg/dl a cause for concern, but changed this to 5μg/dl in 2012 as more evidence became available.

One of the most concerning sources of lead exposure is the unsound recycling of used lead-acid batteries, most of which are found in cars, trucks and other vehicles. Recycling activities are often conducted in informal, unlicensed, and frequently illegal open-air operations close to homes and schools.

Lead is recyclable. It can be reused safely and cleanly through practices consistent with the circular economy and closed-loop supply chain principles, as is the case in countries with appropriate environmental regulations and monitoring. However, many countries lack sufficient formal recycling infrastructure and capacity.

Another cause of lead poisoning is the use of lead compounds, such as lead oxide and lead chromate, as a food additive to make spices appear more vivid in color. The compounds are frequently used with paprika and to make turmeric appear bright yellow. This has been found to happen in India, Africa and Bangladesh.

The risk is also present in developed countries but from other sources, including lead paint, contaminated soil and old water pipes. In the US, for example, children living in poorer households and dilapidated accommodation have been found to be at higher risk from lead exposure, the report showed.

A six-step approach

Addressing lead pollution and exposure among children requires a coordinated and concerted six-pronged approach, according to the report.

  • Monitoring and reporting. Building capacity for blood lead level testing; strengthening the role of the health sector in prevention, diagnosis and management of childhood lead exposure and introducing blood lead level monitoring in the household survey.
  • Prevention and control measures. Preventing children’s exposure to high-risk sites; preventing pregnant women and children’s exposure to products that contain lead and ensuring that children, pregnant women and lactating mothers are receiving adequate health services and nutrition.
  • Management, treatment and remediation. Strengthening primary health care, including providing training for healthcare workers about how to identify, manage and treat lead exposure in children and pregnant women; providing children with improved nutrition and health services.
  • Public awareness and behavior change. Creating continual public education campaigns about the dangers and sources of lead exposure with direct appeals to parents and caregivers, schools, youth associations, community leaders and healthcare workers
  • Legislation and policy. Developing, implementing and enforcing environmental, health and safety standards for manufacturing and recycling of lead-acid batteries, e-waste and other substances that contain lead.
  • Global and regional action. Creating global standard units of measure to verify and track the results of pollution intervention on public health, the environment and local economies and creating international standards and norms around recycling and transportation of used lead-acid batteries.
Smartphone microscope.

With a few cheap changes, your smartphone can now detect lead contamination in water

Researchers at the University of Houston want to help you avoid lead intake from drinking water, so they’re working on an inexpensive system that turns your smartphone into a detector for the metal.

Smartphone microscope.

Researchers built a self-contained smartphone microscope that can operate in both fluorescence and dark-field imaging modes and paired it with an inexpensive Lumina 640 smartphone with an 8-megapixel camera.
Image and caption credit University of Houston.

Following the Flint debacle — when insufficient water treatment capabilities flooded the city’s pipelines with contaminated water — public attention to the health risks posed by lead have soared sky-high. In a bid to protect people from events like this in the future, the team developed an inexpensive system using a smartphone and a lens made with an inkjet printer that can detect dangerously high levels of lead in tap water.

Pb solved

“Smartphone nano-colorimetry is rapid, low-cost, and has the potential to enable individual citizens to examine (lead) content in drinking water on-demand in virtually any environmental setting,” the researchers wrote.

Lead is quite toxic, even in small concentrations, and especially for young children. EPA guidelines state that levels under 15 parts per billion are safe to drink but, according to Shih, consumer test kits on the market today aren’t sensitive enough to accurately detect lead at that level.

To address this problem, the team equipped an inexpensive smartphone with an inkjet-printed lens and, using the dark-field imaging technique, produced a system that is both portable and easy to operate. But, more to the point, the team’s rig can detect waterborne lead in concentrations as low as 5 parts per billion in tap water, and as low as 1.37 parts per billion in deionized water.

The work draws heavily on a previous open-source dataset that Shih and his students published last year. That paper explained how to convert a smartphone equipped with the elastomer lens into a fluorescence microscope (and has since become the most-downloaded paper in the Biomedical Optics Express journal’s history). The present work also incorporates color analysis into the mix, which the device uses to detect lead nano-particles.

As per the previously-published dataset, the team built a microscope that can operate in both fluorescence and dark-field imaging modes. They then paired it with a (relatively cheap) Lumina 640 smartphone with an 8-megapixel camera.

In order to test their device, the team spiked tap water with various levels of lead — from 1.37 parts per billion to 175 parts per billion. They then added chromate ions, which react with the lead to form lead chromate nanoparticles — the latter being what the microscope actually detects. The analysis process itself is more complicated but suffice to say that by the last step of preparation, the team obtained a solid sediment that contained all the lead from their water sample.

The microscopy imaging capability proved essential, Shih said, because the preparation process resulted in so little sediment that it couldn’t be imaged with an unassisted smartphone camera, making it impossible to detect relatively low levels of lead.

“We wanted to be sure we could do something that would be useful from the standpoint of detecting lead at the EPA standard,” Shih said.

The paper “Smartphone Nanocolorimetry for On-Demand Lead Detection and Quantitation in Drinking Water” has been published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Flint water plant.

Flint’s water is deemed safe, Michigan Governor determined to end free bottled water service

Flint’s water is safe to drink again, say Michigan officials, adding that the state will soon cease the free bottled water service for locals.

Flint water plant.

Image via depositphotos.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued a statement Friday saying tap water in Flint is safe to drink again, so bottled water is no longer necessary. Crews will distribute the remaining supply, at which point the PODS sites — which handle distribution — will all close.

“The scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” the office of the Republican governor said in a statement.

“Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward.”

Flint’s troubles with water began in April 2014, when it changed its source of drinking water from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water (sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River. Due to insufficient treatment and improper transport infrastructure, over 100,000 residents (between 6,000 and 12,000 of whom were children) were exposed to high levels of lead (a toxic heavy metal) in the drinking water.

After several studies showed the dangerous levels of lead in the city’s water, and the effects it had on the locals, a federal state of emergency was declared in January 2016. Flint residents were instructed to use only bottled or filtered water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. The state began providing free bottled water to Flint residents in January 2016 after Snyder declared a state of emergency. Initially, water was distributed from nine PODS sites — one in each city council ward.

According to observations carried out by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality between 2015 and 2017, however, water quality has now returned to acceptable levels — an overwhelming amount of the samples taken recently are within federal guidelines for lead and copper quantities.

Despite this, residents were instructed to keep using bottled or filtered water until all the city’s lead pipes had been replaced — which is currently scheduled for 2020.

So it’s easy to see why locals are, reportedly, hesitant to trust officials’ assurances — especially considering that the same administration was responsible for the water crisis in the first place. The city switched its supply from the Flint River back to Lake Huron back in 2015, but residents are still wary.

“Governor Snyder has failed to address the psychological trauma that his administration put the people of Flint through,” said Michigan State Representative Sheldon Neeley, who represents much of the majority-black city of 100,000. “The fact is, the people of Flint don’t trust the Snyder administration or the science they pay for — science that previously allowed our city to be poisoned.”

For better or worse, Governor Snyder is committed to ending the bottled-water handout program. The city, he says, should focus all funds on repairing and replacing its faulty water delivery systems.

Bottled water will continue to be distributed in Flint Community Schools buildings at least through the end of the current school year. The schools have a separate agreement with several leading beverage companies and retailers to supply water.

Lead exposure might be responsible for 10 times more premature deaths than previously thought

A new study suggests that lead exposure may be responsible for nearly 10 times more deaths in the United States than previously thought.

Credit: Wikipedia.

Scientists have discovered that nearly 412,000 deaths each year in the US can be attributed to lead contamination. That number is ten times higher than the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle had previously reported.

“Today, lead exposure is much lower because of regulations banning the use of lead in petrol, paints and other consumer products, so the number of deaths from lead exposure will be lower in younger generations. Still, lead represents a leading cause of disease and death, and it is important to continue our efforts to reduce environmental lead exposure,” explained Professor Bruce Lanphear, from Simon Fraser University in Canada.

Lanphear and colleagues estimated that 28.7% of heart disease-related premature deaths in the US could be caused by lead exposure, which comes to a total of 256,000 deaths annually. 

Researchers used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which monitored 14,289 US adults for 20 years. Of the 4,422 participants who died by 2011, approximately 18% of them could have been saved by reducing blood lead concentrations to 1.0 micrograms per deciliter.

Compared to those with low lead blood concentrations, people with high lead levels (over 6.7 micrograms) had the risk of premature death from any cause increased by 37%, the risk of cardiovascular death increased by 70%, and double the risk of death from ischemic heart disease.

“Our study calls into question the assumption that specific toxicants, like lead, have ‘safe levels’, and suggests that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death in the USA, particularly from cardiovascular disease,” Professor Lanphear said in a statement.

Lead exposure can contribute to cardiovascular disease by various pathways. Lead affects the epithelial cells of the blood vessels, which increases the chances of developing plaques that can then cause a heart attack. Lead contamination also leads to kidney damage, which causes high blood pressure and probably acts synergistically with plaque formation.
Also, if you live near an airport, your blood lead levels will be a little higher than if you live farther away due to the lead found in the aviation gas used in single piston jets.

“Estimating the contribution of low-level lead exposure is essential to understanding trends in cardiovascular disease mortality and developing comprehensive strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease. Currently, low levels of lead exposure are an important, but largely ignored risk factor for deaths from cardiovascular disease,” said Professor Lanphear.

The team admits that the study’s principal limitation is that the research relied heavily on one blood concentration measurement taken at the beginning of the study period, almost 20 years ago.
“Our reliance on a single blood test as opposed to serial blood tests means that we have underestimated the impact of lead exposure on cardiovascular disease,” Lanphear said. “There are some things in the study design itself that we really couldn’t change.”

The team urges the retirement of lead-contaminated housing, lead-laden jet fuels, lead water pipes, and the reduction of emissions from smelters and lead battery facilities.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in reducing these exposures in the past four to five decades,” Lanphear added. “But our blood levels are still 10 to 100 times higher than our pre-industrial ancestors,” Lanphear concludes.

Scientific reference: Bruce Lanphear , Stephen Rauch, Peggy Auinger, Ryan W Allen , Richard W Hornung. Low-level lead exposure and mortality in US adults: a population-based cohort studyThe Lancet Public Health, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30025-2

CDC: Homeopathic “healing bracelet” dramatically increases lead levels in babies’ blood

Tests have confirmed that the bracelet is to blame.

In all honesty though… why would you put this on your baby? Image credits: Kimberly Dubanoski, Manchester Health Department, Connecticut.

The problem came to light in September 2016, when a routine screening of a female infant aged 9 months in Manchester, Connecticut, revealed that she was suffering anemia and had lead blood levels over five times the normal limit. Now, the lead source was finally identified.

CDC officials conducted an environmental assessment of the house the baby was living in. They did find two interior window wells with peeling lead-based paint. However, the baby had no access to the window wells, and her siblings had significantly lower lead levels in their blood (way within normal limits), clearly indicating that a different source was to blame. That’s when the parents told doctors the baby had been intermittently wearing a “homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet.”

The bracelet was worn for “teething related discomfort” and the baby would sometimes chew on it. Since lead poisoning is often caused by oral ingestion of lead containing products, this immediately stood out so the CDC analyzed the bracelet, identifying its spacer beads as the source of toxicity.

The parents say they bought the bracelet at a fair and no warnings or branding was found on it. Doctors Patricia Garcia and Jennifer Haile, lead treatment specialists at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center tried to trace down the produced, but they couldn’t. At this point, it’s unsure how many other such bracelets are on the market and who manufactures them.

Since lead is a potent neurotoxin, it can affect every system in the body. It is especially associated with lowered IQ and numerous behavioral problems. Needless to say, the bracelet couldn’t do anything to help. For dealing with teething pains (which are fairly normal), doctors recommend gentle gum massage, cold teething rings, and cloths.

This serves as yet another reminder to stick to real, evidence based medicine. Not only is homeopathy completely ineffective, but crack medicine can be very dangerous — as was the case here. If the problem hadn’t been identified this early, things could have gotten a lot worse.

Left: Van Gogh painting “Wheat Stack under a Cloudy Sky” (Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands). The paint sample area is indicated by a white circle. Upper right: Detail of the painting in the sample area, lower right: Detail of the paint sample (picture: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)

Why Van Gogh’s paintings are fading to white

Belgian scientists have revealed a refined explanation for the chemical process that’s currently degrading Vincent van Gogh’s famous paintings, which are losing their bright red. Like other old paintings, van Gogh’s works are losing their saturated hue because of the interaction between red led and light. Using sophisticated  X-ray crystallographic methods, the researchers identified a key carbon mineral called plumbonacrite in one of his paintings, which explains the process even better.

Left: Van Gogh painting “Wheat Stack under a Cloudy Sky” (Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands). The paint sample area is indicated by a white circle. Upper right: Detail of the painting in the sample area, lower right: Detail of the paint sample (picture: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)

Left: Van Gogh painting “Wheat Stack under a Cloudy Sky” (Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands). The paint sample area is indicated by a white circle. Upper right: Detail of the painting in the sample area, lower right: Detail of the paint sample (picture: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)

All paints are made up of three key parts: the vehicle (usually water), the pigment (the stuff that gives matter color – usually mined from the earth in the form of clay or mineral or even plants, but also synthetic form), and a binder (otherwise you’d just have colored water – typically chalk is used). Red lead (minium, or lead (II,IV) oxide) is a lead oxide whose composition is Pb3O4 and whose color varies over time. It’s been a favorite pigment for thousands of years. In fact, it can still be found in the old cave paintings some 40,000 years old. Of course, it degrades over time darkening as the red lead pigment is converted to plattnerite (beta-lead dioxide) or galena (lead sulfide). At other times, the color will lighten or bleach due to the conversion of red lead to lead sulfate or lead carbonate.

A team led by Koen Janssens at the University of Antwerp investigated what makes van Gogh’s paintings turn white by taking a microscopic sample from “Wheat Stack under a Cloudy Sky”, one of his famous work, and subjecting it to crystallographic analysis. X-ray powder diffraction mapping and tomography techniques were employed to determine the spatial distribution of the various crystalline compounds found throughout the sample. They eventually found an unexpected compound, the very rare lead carbonate mineral called plumbonacrite (3 PbCO3·Pb(OH)2·PbO).

“This is the first time that this substance has been found in a painting from before the mid twentieth century,” reports Frederik Vanmeert, first author of the paper. “Our discovery sheds new light on the bleaching process of red lead.”

Considering this latest finding, the Belgian researchers proposed a chemical reaction pathway of the red lead under the influence of light and CO2, which ultimately altered the pigment and caused a color change in the painting. As light hits the paint (red lead and other pigments), the incoming energy causes electrons to move from the valance band to the conducting band in red lead, which is a semi-conductor. This reduces the red lead to PbO, which reacts with other products formed by the reaction of CO2 from the air with the degrading binding medium. Ultimately, this forms plumbonacrite  as an intermediate that is converted to hydrocerussite and then to cerussite (lead carbonate). All these products are white, hence the lower saturation. The findings were reported in  Angewandte Chemie.

Art aficionados shouldn’t fret too hard, though. Van Gogh’s paintings are still marvelous, despite more than a hundred years since the Dutch painter made his first stroke on the canvas. Museums give great care and employ special conservation methods to keep the old masters’ work bright and vibrant for hundreds of years to come.


Poor cookware might be lead poisoning an entire continent


Photo: irisglobal.org

A study suggests that immense amounts of lead are being ingested in Africa, since extensive use of cookware made from recycled materials leaks lead into the food. This is the first time the extent of lead poisoning has been assessed. Results suggest that in some instances, as much as 200 times the threshold amount for lead poisoning is being ingested. The health hazards following lead poisoning are numerous, most notably causing cognitive impairment.

Better check that pot

The Ashland University researchers partnered with the Cameroonian NGO Research and Education Centre for Development (CREPD) to assess the damage of makeshift cookware, typically made from  recycled scrap metal; including car and computer parts, cans, and other industrial debris. The team analyzed 29 samples of aluminum cookware made in Cameroon and simulated cooking by boiling a mildly acid solution in each cookware for two hours.

The team found that a typical serving contained almost 200 times more lead than California’s maximum allowable dose level of 0.5 micrograms per day, and if that wasn’t bad enough, traces of aluminium and cadmium were also discovered to leach from the cookware.

“These locally made aluminum pots are the most commonly used in Cameroon and throughout Africa, so the lead levels we found are alarming and a threat to public health,” said Gilbert Kuepouo, Executive Director of CREPD and one of the study’s authors.

“This previously unrecognized lead exposure source has the potential to be of much greater public health significance than lead paint or other well-known sources that are common around the world,” added co-author Perry Gottesfeld.

Lead is a tremendously damaging substance and children are the most vulnerable to it because they’re developing and lead is foremost known for attacking cognitive functions. Studies have repeatedly shown that lead poisoning causes brain damage, impaired cognition, lower educational performance, and a range of other health effects. Perhaps the most famous example of how lead can actually influence a whole society is how crime rates in the US plummeted following lead gasoline ban. It may very well be a correlation fallacy, but truth is atmospheric lead does in fact severely affect cognition and by the looks of it, lead is poisoning a whole continent.

“Unlike some other sources of lead contamination, lead poisoning from cookware can impact entire families over a life-time. Even low-level lead exposures can result in reduced IQ and neurological deficits,” concluded Ashland University’s Jeffrey Weidenhamer.

There are no regulatory standards for lead in cookware but the Globe Wellness Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have determined that there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

“This previously unrecognized lead exposure supply has the possible to be of substantially greater public wellness significance than lead paint or other nicely-known sources that are common about the globe,” mentioned Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Expertise International.

Recently performed surveys of lead exposures in Africa and Asia have recommended that blood lead levels have remained stubbornly elevated in spite of the ban on lead in gasoline in most of the planet. “The presence of lead in meals cooked in these pots may perhaps be a single contributing factor to the ongoing lead poisoning epidemic,” Gottesfeld said.

Findings appeared in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

400 common lipsticks contain lead – yet cheapest brand has lowest levels

Four hundred of the most popular lipsticks in the US contain trace levels of lead, according to tests conducted by the federal government – a number much bigger than what was expected.

Five of the L’Oreal and Maybelline lipsticks ranked among the top 10 most contaminated brands, as well as two Cover Girl and two NARS. The researchers from the FDA who conducted the study declared they were shocked and weren’t expecting this, especially in the midst of the debate between the FDA and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a consumer group which has been pushing the government for years to set some lead limits in lipstick. Until now, the government insisted that the quantities of lead pose no problem, but after this latest batch of testing, they might change their mind – though I wouldn’t put my money on that.

However, they argue that, despite one third of all lipsticks contain levels higher than those approved in candy, the comparison is invalid.

“It is not scientifically valid to equate the risk to consumers presented by lead levels in candy, a product intended for ingestion, with that associated with lead levels in lipstick, a product intended for topical use and ingested in much smaller quantities than candy,” the FDA said in comments posted on its Web site.

The highest amount was found in the Maybelline’s Color Sensational “Pink Petal” lipstick, at 7.19 parts per million, and the average was at around 1.2 parts per million; on the other hand, Wet & Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm, the least expensive from the ones analyzed was also the one with the lowest amount of lead, showing once again that price is not always a good indicator for quality.


While some voices from the FDA state those numbers are in the normal limits, many disagree with this opinion.

“Lead builds in the body over time, and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant level exposure,” Mark Mitchell, co-chairman of the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association, said in the group’s statement.

It doesn’t seem like anyone is in a hurry to do anything about this, but it is something to ponder when putting make-up on. If you ask me, beauty should be lead-free.