GSA 2020 Connects Online

Paper No. 167-1
Presentation Time: 5:35 PM


GIERÉ, Reto and PEPINO, Richard, Earth and Environmental Science & Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, University of Pennsylvania, 240 S. 33rd Street, Hayden Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316

Research on lead exposure has documented the extensive health impacts, especially the adverse effects on children during developmental years. Once in the body, lead destroys nerve cells in the brain, producing impaired neuron-signal conduction, and interfering with both cognitive functions and behavioral patterns. Lead further blocks the production of hemoglobin, leading to anemia, fatigue and lethargy. There is no effective treatment after exposure to lead, and damage is permanent. In the U.S., children with elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs), i.e., at or above the CDC reference level of 5 µg/dL, consistently score lower in reading and math tests. Every year in Philadelphia, about 2400 children with EBLLs are identified. Primary prevention by eliminating exposure to lead is the most effective strategy in lowering risks. The most important sources of lead in the environment include:

  • lead-based household and industrial paint
  • health and personal care products
  • emissions from mining, smelting and melting
  • emissions from combustion, incineration, and various recycling processes
  • emission products from leaded gasoline, which are persistent in the environment
  • contaminated soils as well as indoor and outdoor dust
  • adulterated food
  • folk remedies and cosmetic products
  • lead service lines supplying residential drinking water

This presentation will highlight some of these lead sources, the risks to vulnerable populations and the persistence of lead in the environment.