Exposure to Lead could Cause Heart Attacks

Exposure to Lead could Cause Heart Attacks

Of environmental lead exposure, he said: "If we took that seriously, without knowing anything more about genetics, without any more expensive drugs, we could much more strategically reduce deaths from heart disease, which is pretty hopeful, actually". Rather, he said, it "suggests that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death in the US, particularly from cardiovascular disease".

Lead exposure is much lower today because of regulations banning the use of lead in petrol, paints and other products.

"Nobody had even tried to estimate the number of deaths caused by lead exposure using a nationally representative sample of adults", Dr Bruce Lanphear, a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University and a leading author of the study told CNN. Lanphear and his team sought to determine how exposure to lead contributes to all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in the U.S.

So, what is the link between lead exposure and heart disease? Lanphear and colleagues suggests that even lower levels of lead exposure can pose significant harm to health.

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. Once we found that there was a risk across the entire range of exposures, we could estimate the number of attributable deaths.

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.

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Lead was undetectable in the blood of almost one in 10 of the volunteers tested.

Prof Lanphear said: "Our study calls into question the assumption that specific toxicants, like lead, have "safe levels", and suggests that low-level environmental lead exposure is a leading risk factor for premature death in the U.S., particularly from cardiovascular disease".

Overall, people who had high lead levels (6.7 µg/dL) were at 37 percent greater risk of premature death from any cause, 70 percent times greater risk of cardiovascular death, and double the risk of death from ischemic heart disease, compared with people with lower levels (1 µg/dL).

Researchers warned outside factors could lead to an "overestimation of the effect of concentrations of lead in blood, particularly from socioeconomic and occupational factors".

Of that figure, exposure to the toxic metal may be an "important, but largely overlooked" risk factor behind the 256,000 annual cardiovascular disease deaths in the country, the authors found.

The authors note some limitations, including that their results rely on one blood lead test taken at the start of the study and therefore can not determine any effect of further lead exposure after the study outset. "A key conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that lead has a much greater impact on cardiovascular mortality than previously recognized". In addition, they were unable to control for all potential confounders such as air pollution or arsenic exposure, both of which are established CVD risk factors. "The information that emerges from this reassessment will increase understanding of lead's contribution to mortality from non-communicable diseases, could foster collaboration between the environmental and chronic disease research communities, guide realignment of cardiovascular disease prevention strategies, and ultimately save lives".

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