Lead is a toxic metal that occurs naturally in the Earth's crust. Its widespread use has resulted in widespread environmental contamination, human exposure, and serious public health issues in many parts of the world.
The World Health Organisation has listed lead as one of 10 chemicals that are very dangerous to public health (WHO).
The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has passed a rule called "Regulation on Lead contents in Household and Decorative Paints Rules, 2016," which says that household and decorative paints with more than 90 parts per million of lead or lead compounds cannot be made, traded, imported, or exported (PPM).
Important sources of environmental contamination include mining, smelting, manufacturing and recycling activities, and, in some countries, the continued use of leaded paint and leaded aviation fuel. More than three quarters of global lead consumption is for the manufacture of lead-acid batteries for motor vehicles. Lead is, however, also used in many other products, for example pigments, paints, solder, stained glass, lead crystal glassware, ammunition, ceramic glazes, jewellery, toys and some cosmetics and traditional medicines.
Why is it Dangerous?
Once lead enters the body, it is distributed to organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. Lead is stored in the body's teeth and bones, where it builds up over time. During pregnancy, lead contained in bone may be released into the blood, so exposing the foetus. Children who are malnourished are more susceptible to lead absorption because their bodies absorb more lead in the absence of calcium and iron. Children at highest risk are the very young (including the developing foetus) and the economically disadvantaged.
Children who recover from severe lead poisoning may nevertheless have behavioural and intellectual problems. At lower exposure levels that do not create noticeable symptoms, it is now known that lead can cause damage to a variety of physiological systems. Lead, in particular, can have an impact on how children's brains develop, which can lower IQ, change behaviour in the form of increased antisocial behaviour and decreased attention span, as well as lower academic attainment. Anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity, and toxicity to the reproductive organs are further effects of lead exposure. It is believed that the neurological and behavioural effects of lead are irreversible.