- Lead toxicity in India continues to remain a public health concern.
- Lead is a highly toxic metal and a very strong poison.
- Lead poisoning is a serious and sometimes fatal condition which occurs when lead builds up in the body.
- It is characterized especially by fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, anemia, a dark line along the gums, and muscle paralysis
- Sources of lead poisoning include battery recycling, lead mining, smelting, welding, soldering ,automobile repatriating, household paints, etc.
- Around 1 in 3 children – up to approximately 800 million globally, have blood lead levels (BLL) at or above 5 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL)
- Children around the world are being poisoned by lead on a massive and unrecognized scale.
- The impact of lead on adults is so large that over 900,000 premature deaths per year are attributed to lead exposure.
- Many countries lack sufficient formal recycling infrastructure and capacity to handle the quantity of used lead-acid batteries flooding their markets.
- India is a home to a large population of children (275,561,163 of the 800 million) poisoned by lead.
- Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh had the highest average blood lead levels (BLL) among Indian states.
- Some 23 states have an average BLL that goes beyond five microgram per decilitre (μg / dl)
- Lead poisoning has caused 230,000 premature deaths in India.
Impact of lead toxicity
- Lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children. At high levels of exposure lead attacks the brain and central nervous system, causing coma, convulsions and even death.
- Lead can affect children’s brain development, resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes ,reduced attention span, etc.
- Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, and toxicity to the reproductive organs.
Lead acid batteries
- Management of lead-acid batteries came under the Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001.
- But enforcement capacity to ensure safe and environmentally sound recycling has been inadequate.
- As a result, almost half of the used lead-acid batteries in India are still recycled in informal, uncontrolled and unregulated settings.
- However, the Battery Waste Management Rules, 2022 aim at reducing share of battery recycling in the informal sector and stress on extended producer responsibility.
- Extended producer responsibility is a practice and a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers.
- India lacks systems to screen populations for possible lead exposure
- In several circumstances, determining the source of (lead) poisoning is challenging since patients may not disclose their history of (lead) exposure, resulting in a late diagnosis.
- Further sources of lead poisoning change from location to location, and there are usually multiple exposure sources in any given place.
- Factories Act, 1948, also has provisions to protect the health and safety of workers, it is difficult to cover all industries.
- Regular screening and testing of lead sources will inform about region-wise prevalence and help tailor interventions, such as changes in industry practices, training of government officials to assess lead contamination, and changes in public education and consumer behavior.