Over 23% blood samples in 2014 tested positive for lead poisoning: Mumbai lab

A study by a diagnostic centre in Mumbai claims that 23.47 per cent of the 733 blood samples processed by the lab in the last one year tested positive for lead poisoning.

The revelations that blood samples of those aged between 20 and 50 were found to have more lead poison follow the Maggi lead content controversy made headlines, leading to a ban on the snack in several states, including Maharashtra.

It also brings to light that it is not just Maggie, various other sources, including contaminated soil, drinking water, petrol emissions, household dust, battery recycling, silver refining, paints, pigments, printing presses, ceramic pottery glazes, cosmetics, colours (including kumkum, sindoor, spices and Holi colours), children's toys, plant foods and traditional medicines add to lead in human blood.

Of those who tested positive for poisoning, 123 were aged between 20 and 50, which is the age group that goes out to work.

According to a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO), lead exposure is estimated to account for 143,000 deaths per year, with the highest burden in developing regions.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer permanent adverse health effects, such as slower development of the brain and nervous system.

"Lead poisoning can be hard to detect; even people who seem healthy can have high level of lead in blood. At high levels of exposure, lead damages the brain and central nervous system and can lead to coma, convulsions and even death. Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning usually don't appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated," Dr Sandeep Warghade, consulting pathologist, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, said.

Lead poisoning cases in children are high because of licking or eating lead-containing paint when it is peeling off walls or toys. Lead from a mother's blood can be passed to the foetus during pregnancy, possibly giving rise to genetic disorders.

Lead exposure is estimated to contribute to 6 lakh new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year. In growing children, lead poisoning causes low IQ, hyperactivity, attention deficit, learning disabilities and anaemia.