As many as 800 million children have dangerously high lead values in their blood. The neurotoxin can cause permanent brain damage, warn researchers.
The huge international numbers come from a new report from Pure Earth and UNICEF.
Pure Earth works to solve pollution problems that can be harmful to humans.
“A child’s earliest years of life are characterized by rapid growth and brain development. This makes children particularly vulnerable to harmful substances in the environment,” said study co-author Kam Sripada from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Norway. “Exposure to lead during pregnancy and early in life can lead to a child never reaching his or her potential,” she said.
Lead is an element, but also a powerful neurotoxin that can cause damage at a level as low as five micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood. Lead poisoning can be acute and can cause everything from stomach pain to brain damage, coma and death. But lead poisoning can also come on slowly, because it accumulates in the body over a long period of time.