Indu Bhushan and Soumya Swaminathan write: India’s hidden adversary, lead poisoning

Source: The post is based on the article “Indu Bhushan and Soumya Swaminathan write: India’s hidden adversary, lead poisoning” published in “The Indian Express” on 26th August 2023.

Syllabus: GS3 – Environment Pollution

News: The author discusses the serious issue of lead poisoning in India, affecting many children. Despite global awareness, India’s old paints, water-pipes, and certain jobs expose people to lead. The author suggests legislative changes, monitoring, cleanup of contaminated areas, and public awareness as solutions to protect future generations.

Why lead poisoning a concern in India?

High Exposure in Children: A 2021 study found that about 20 crore children in India have blood lead levels exceeding the safe limit set by WHO.

Severe Health Impact: Lead poisoning can lead to learning disabilities, neurological impairments, stunted growth, and organ damage. Children are especially vulnerable.

Economic and Social Impact: The effects of lead poisoning account for a significant learning gap between rich and poor countries. Affected children might achieve less in education and work, impacting the nation’s productivity.

Prevalent Lead Sources: India has old paints and water-pipes releasing toxic lead dust. There’s also exposure from informal recycling of lead-acid batteries and certain occupations.

How did others countries address this?

U.S. Initiative with Gasoline: The U.S. successfully reduced blood lead concentration by over 90% between 1976 and 1995 by eliminating lead from gasoline.

Paint and Water-pipe Regulations: Globally, countries have introduced strict standards to ensure paints and water pipes are lead-free, reducing exposure sources.

Bangladesh’s Turmeric Solution: Turmeric adulteration was a major lead source in Bangladesh. By introducing strict regulations and educating consumers between 2017 and 2021, they reduced lead-tainted turmeric from 47% in 2019 to 0% in 2021.

How can India tackle this issue?

Clear Legislation: India needs a strong legislative framework defining health and safety standards, especially for manufacturing and recycling products containing lead.

Enforce Standards: It’s vital to strictly enforce regulations on paints and water pipes, given their contribution to lead exposure.

Monitoring System: Establish a system for blood lead level testing. Introducing such monitoring in household surveys can help identify affected populations.

Identify Contaminated Sites: Launch nationwide efforts to pinpoint lead-contaminated areas, prioritizing clean-ups near schools and residential zones.

Promote Sustainable Practices: Establish waste management practices and electronic waste recycling programs to minimize lead contamination.

Inter-departmental Coordination: Enhance collaboration between government agencies, NGOs, and international partners to address the issue cohesively.

Public Awareness: Raise awareness about lead’s dangers, targeting parents, workers in lead-related industries, schools, and healthcare professionals to ensure wide-reaching impact.

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