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Effects of Lead on the Environment and Human Health

Governments in developed nations around the world are trying to slowly phase lead out of use as much as possible, but it isn’t an easy task. The soft, malleable, and ductile nature of the metal has made it an integral part of the modern world for centuries and now that we know how poisonous it is, it has become a challenge to suddenly change everything. Everything from fuel, automobile emissions, and ammunitions, to batteries, paints, and fertilizers; we are surrounded by things that could lead to lead poisoning. The situation is even worse in developing nations located mainly in South Asia and Africa, where the people are mostly ignorant of the dangers that the metal may pose to general public’s health, and especially that of children. While we may not be able to control the bigger aspects of the problem, knowing how it impacts the environment can help us win the battle against lead toxicity.


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How Lead Affects Soil

Lead readily accumulates in soil with high organic content and will continue to remain fully active in there for 2,000+ years. As the proportion of accumulated lead in the soil has now become much higher than it should be, the lead is becoming more soluble and making its way inside plants and, in turn, the entire food chain on the planet. Scientists have predicted that this will continue until equilibrium is reached. Given that the equilibrium can only be reached if the lead is extracted from the soil or when the extra lead ends up in plants, animals, and human beings, that’s alarming news.

Lead is Detrimental to Micro-organisms

Studies are showing that the lead emissions from engine exhausts are killing entire populations of microbes on the roadside. This paves the way for new strains of bacteria and fungi to take over; the kind which emits toxic lead back into the soil and plants in a much more soluble form that gets easily absorbed by surrounding plant life.

Effect of Lead on Animals and Human Beings

The effect of lead on animals and human beings is absolutely devastating. The following should serve to highlight some of them.

  • Affects the CNS
  • Interferes with and hinders RBC synthesis
  • May cause death in months or even weeks if ingested in large doses

Symptoms of the above-mentioned effects of lead toxicity in human beings and animals can be seen in the following forms.

  • Hampers cognitive development in children
  • Learning, hearing, and behavioral problems in children
  • Inadequate physical and mental growth
  • Abdominal discomfort, pain, and cramps
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia, memory loss, and other sleeping disorders
  • Irritability, frequent headaches, and constant fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Anemia, kidney problems, high blood pressure
  • Numb and tingling fingers and toes

As it can be seen, not only are the effects of lead devastating for the environment, they are also extremely damaging to human and animal health. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to find a lasting solution to the increasing lead problem yet. Nevertheless, it is a process in progress and cutting out lead from fuels, pipes, toys, paints, etc., are all steps towards reaching that goal.

About David Hanson

David Hanson

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