“Lead Exposure May Be as Deadly as Cigarettes”

Lead exposure may be killing as many Americans as cigarettes. A new analysis using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III) showed blood lead levels in adults not currently considered to be harmful are associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, as well as a greater likelihood of dying from any cause. Lead exposure is a leading, but largely ignored, risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Chronic lead exposure is a known contributor to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Lead exposure occurs when lead dust or fumes are inhaled, or when lead is ingested via contaminated hands, food, water, cigarettes or clothing. Lead particles or dust can be brought into the home and family vehicle on work clothes and equipment. This is called “take home” lead and it can harm anyone who is exposed. Lead entering the respiratory and digestive systems is released to the blood and distributed throughout the body. More than 90% of the total body burden of lead is accumulated in the bones, where it is stored. Lead in bones may be released into the blood, re-exposing organ systems long after the original exposure. The toxic nature of lead is well documented. Lead poisoning in children is especially dangerous because it can cause learning problems and serious illness. Lead affects all organs and functions of the body to varying degrees.

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