Lead has been a major pollutant in many homes due to the use of paints and lead water pipes, as well as its presence in other household items.
Awareness of these risks means that, for many years now, its usage in these products and others has been banned or restricted in the EU. These products include: petrol, paints, food, toys, pipes, electronic equipment etc.
However, lead is still a common pollutant in many homes where it can come from various sources including old lead-based paints from before the 1980s. When these painted walls are damaged, they can emit lead particles (e.g. during refurbishment or when walls are sanded or stripped). Also, despite the banning of lead in paints in the EU and other countries, paints containing high levels of this metal are still being sold around the world so we still need to be careful when buying paint products.
We should also take into account that some lead water pipes have still not been changed.
On the other hand, many products in our homes may still contain lead: ceramics (e.g. those imported from countries without restrictions on lead), glazed ceramics, glassware, some plastics and products from certain countries which may contain or be covered in paints which contain lead and therefore do not have the EU-approved mark e.g. toys. Lead may also be present in some imported and exported foods as this metal has been a significant and persistent environmental pollutant. We can also bring lead into our homes from our workplaces or from contaminated soil (by our shoes, in dust etc.) and some cosmetics can also contain lead.
Even in those countries that have worked hard to eliminate the thread of lead, this heavy metal is still often found at worrying levels.
Lead is very toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative. There is particular cause for concern with regards to children who proportionally absorb several times more lead than adults and are very sensitive to its effects.
Considerable scientific research has associated lead exposure to countless health problems including: reduced male and female fertility, sperm defects, acute tubular necrosis, ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, psychiatric disorders, convulsions, serious behavioural issues, loss of coordination, cataracts, chronic kidney disease, cognitive impairment, coronary diseases, gout, hearing loss, hypertension, changes during puberty, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, brain haemorrhage, fetotoxicity, premature births, delayed development, glomerulonephritis, hormonal imbalances, lowered immunity, low birth weights, menstrual disorders, myocardial infarction, nephrotic syndrome, porphyria etc. Some scientific studies have also linked it to: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, bladder cancer, brain cancer, craniofacial defects, erectile dysfunction, lung cancer, neurasthenia, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, renal cancer, stomach cancer, thyroid disorders etc.