Low levels of lead linked to death from heart disease

Low levels of lead linked to death from heart disease

"Our study findings suggest that low-level environmental lead exposure is an important risk factor for death in the U.S., particularly from cardiovascular disease", the paper states.

Tim Chico of the University of Sheffield told the paper: "This study suggests that lead, or factors that increase people's exposure to lead, causes thousands more deaths every year than we previously recognised".

"No studies have estimated the number of deaths in the United States of America attributable to lead exposure using a nationally representative cohort, and it is unclear whether concentrations of lead in blood lower than 5 µg/dL ( 0.24 mol/L), which is the current action level for adults in the United States of America, are associated with cardiovascular mortality", they added.

There are regulations in place to safeguard people against lead exposure but about 90 percent of US are still exposed to the contaminant, CNN noted.

Led by Prof. Bruce Lanphear, from Simon Fraser University in Canada, the study is the first to use a nationally representative sample to investigate how low levels of lead exposure affect mortality in the U.S.

So, what is the link between lead exposure and heart disease?

"This study suggests that estimating the contribution of environmental lead exposure is essential to understand trends in cardiovascular disease mortality and develop comprehensive strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease", they concluded. All were given a medical examination at the start of the study that included a blood test for lead, with readings ranging from less than 1mg per decilitre of blood to 56mg.

The study, which was published in The Lancet Public Health journal this week, tracked more than 14,000 adults over a period of about 20 years. Lanphear and colleagues suggests that even lower levels of lead exposure can pose significant harm to health.

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Baseline blood lead levels ranged from less than 1 μg/dL to 56 μg/dL.

Nearly one in 10 participants had lead levels that were undetectable to the blood test, so were given a reference level of 0.7 µg/dL (8%, 1150/14289 participants).

Based on these risk levels, the authors estimated that up to 18 percent of all deaths every year in the US (or 412,000 out of 2.3 million annual mortalities) would be among people who had levels of lead above 1 micrograms per deciliter.

These results were adjusted for age, sex, household income, ethnic origin, diabetes, BMI, smoking status, alcohol consumption, diet, physical activity, and amount of cadmium in urine.

"Currently, low levels of lead exposure are an important, but largely ignored risk factor for deaths from cardiovascular disease", adds Prof.

Contact with lead is linked to high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and coronary heart disease, but low-level exposure was not previously thought to increase mortality.

The study found that lead is common in a variety of common items including fuel, paint and plumbing and can even be found in certain foods, emissions from industrial sources, and contamination from lead smelting sites and lead batteries.

AFP/GETTYTHIS causes one in five deaths - are you at risk?

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