Bangladesh is the fourth most-seriously hit in terms of the number of children affected by lead poisoning on a massive and previously unknown scale in the world, according to a new global report.
The report, the first of its kind, says that around 1 in 3 children - up to 800 million globally - have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), a level which requires action.
Nearly half of these children live in South Asia. In Bangladesh, it is estimated that 35.5 million children are affected with blood lead levels above 5 ?g/dL, making the country the fourth most-seriously hit in the world, according to the report launched by UNICEF and Pure Earth. "Lead exposure has severe and long-lasting health and development impacts on children, including lifelong learning disabilities and their capacity to earn income when they grow up.
UNICEF will be working with the concerned actors to help address dangerous metal waste and lead pollution and the toll it takes on children," said Tomoo Hozumi, Unicef Representative in Bangladesh. The report--The Toxic Truth: Children's exposure to lead pollution undermines a generation of potential--is an analysis of childhood lead exposure undertaken by the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation and verified with a study approved for publication in Environmental Health Perspectives.
In Bangladesh, illegal recycling of used lead-acid batteries in the open-air and close to homestead areas is considered to be a major source of lead exposure.
This poses a significant health risk for both children and adults.
According to the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation, Bangladesh has the world's fourth-highest rate of death due to lead exposure with an average population of blood lead levels at 6.83 ?g/dL, which is the eleventh highest in the world.
The research also found that high concentrations of lead were found in spices in Bangladesh.
Lead chromate, which is used to enhance color and weight of turmeric as a sign of quality, contributes to the elevated lead blood levels in children and adults alike.
According to one study, some concentrations exceeded the national limit by up to 500 times.
The report estimates that the economic loss due to lead-attributable IQ reduction in Bangladesh is equivalent to 5.9 per cent of the country's GDP.
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