Doctors raise alarm over kids’ rising exposure to lead, diminished brain power


MANILA, Philippines—Pediatricians raised the alarm on Wednesday, on the susceptibility of most Filipino kids to lead exposure, greatly diminishing their brain power.

Doctors have expressed concern with the steadily increasing use of the heavy metal in consumer products.

A World Health Organization (WHO) finds some 120 million people overexposed to lead, 99 percent of whom are in developing countries.  An American environmentalist described lead poisoning as “an epidemic completely preventable without waiting for new technologies or treatment.”

In Wednesday’s forum “MISLEAD: Lead Contamination in Children,” organized by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), Dr. Visitacion Antonio, the East Avenue Medical Center toxicologist, stressed that “Lead should not be in our system.”

Antonio revealed that majority of those affected by lead poisoning or elevated blood lead levels were usually children aged six years old and below.

She explained that children have become most susceptible to lead poisoning because they basically, “drink more water, eat more food and take in more air.” Most children are prone to “hand-to-mouth” activity, which result in their ingestion of lead-tainted paint chips or even dust, according to Antonio.

Lead poisoning is critical particularly when children are exposed to the heavy metal in their brain development stage.

“Our concern is the neurologic effect of lead. It affects the brain, thus the performance of children in school, their growth and development, and their hearing. At levels more than 70 micrograms per deciliter, they may even develop encephalopathy,” Antonio said, emphasizing that there is no safe level of exposure for kids.

Encephalopathy is a syndrome, which may involve permanent and degenerative brain damage caused by direct injury to the brain or a remote illness in other parts of the body. It may be reversible when caused by nutritional deficiency or toxins.

The toxicologist said that acute or direct exposure to lead would present gastro-intestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea. She added that 90 percent of lead would staylonger by as much as 25 years in a child’s bones than in the soft tissues and blood.

Dr. Edwin Rodriguez, the University of Santo Tomas Hospital hematologist said, “Lead as a toxicant is cumulative in children.”

When lead is introduced to a child’s system, the heavy metal destroys red blood cells and obstructs the development of hemoglobin causing anemia, according to Rodriguez. “Lead is an antagonist of iron,” he explained, saying that iron helps produce the red blood cells.

Rodriguez said that the only treatment for lead poisoning would be chelation, which would require the introduction of another heavy metal to bind lead. He stressed that the way to go would be through primary prevention such as regular washing and healthier food.

Meanwhile, Perry Gottesfeld, the Occupational Knowledge International executive director and public health consultant to the Ecowaste Coalition, described lead as a growing threat and the “most significant enviornmental health threat.”

He called for primary prevention rather than responding after the fact of lead poisoning.

“We can no longer afford to waste time. We need to take action before they (children) are exposed to lead,” Gottesfeld said, pointing out that the rate of globally mined lead products from 1995 to 2011 posted an increase of 66 percent.

He cited the growth of the sales in the Asia-Pacific Region of lead-tainted paint, commonly used in houses, schools and daycare facilities.

It meant, he said, that children would be 10 times more likely to be exposed to lead through dust and 20 times susceptible to poisoning from the heavy metal in their own homes.

Gottesfeld called on paint companies to reformulate their products and stop adding lead, pointing out that there are alternatives they could use as an ingredient.

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  • Cue_Vas

    Instead of scaring us, is there anything we can do to find out if our homes are lead contaminated?

    Like, is there a cheap testing kit available to test if the paint in our house has lead?

    And why not just order paint companies to stop putting lead, like gasoline companies did?


    >>>Doctors raise alarm over kids’ rising exposure to lead, diminished brain power<<<

    SABI ng kapit-bahay ko, marami din sa seneyt at congrease ang na-e-expose sa LEAD….kaya nga daw ang tawag sa kanila ay LEADER. Diminished brain power tremendously, lalo na daw sa seneyt kapag may imbistigasyon na sa katiwalian. si Lapid daw ang isa sa mga nangunguna sa kalalaan. :)

  • basilionisisa

    another irresponsible reporting from PDI, an alarmist (epidemic?), but without research on any actual incidence happening HERE in the country to back up its concern, other than repeating an American environmentalist (justifying her fat salary from WHO) with statistics from other countries (or so they say, no proof). Come on guys (these Doctors Antonio and Rodriguez, and this reporter Andrade), you can do BETTER! Please be more discerning and more prepared in your dissemination of (scary) information to the public.

    • go88

      But research about lead was done in the Philippines, and results are alarming.

      Bulletin of the World Health Organization
      Research on Elevated blood-lead levels among children living in the rural
      September 2007, 85 (9)


      Generally, lead poisoning is not considered a significant environmental hazard for children in rural areas of developing countries.
      With a prospectively designed policy experiment, the research community
      and the government are conducting a broad-based investigation
      to introduce and evaluate the impact of health policy reforms on
      children in a rural area of the Philippines – the Quality
      Improvement Demonstration Study (QIDS). As part of this study, we researched lead exposure in children under the age of five.


      We sampled a population of children from the Visayas region in the central Philippines, covering approximately one third of the country’s geographical area. From December 2003 to September 2004, the survey collected blood lead levels (BLL) together with demographic, socioeconomic and child health data points. Supplemental field-testing among a sub-sample of the most exposed children assessed the sources of environmental lead exposure.Findings Among children in this study, 21% (601 of 2861 children) had BLL greater than10 μg/dl. BLL were associated independently with age, haemoglobin concentration, water source, roofing material, expenditures and history of breastfeeding. A follow-up assessment of possible environmental exposures among the sub-sample of children with elevated BLL revealed no single or predominant exposure source. Instead, there appear to be multiple potential sources, such as fossil-fuel combustion, lead paint (in or around 38% of homes) and household items.
      Conclusion: Elevated BLL are common among children in the Visayas, and may signify an under-recognized threat to children living in
      rural areas of other developing nations. This setting has varied
      environmental sources of lead. Observed correlates of BLL may be
      of clinical, environmental and public health utility to identify and mitigate the consequences of lead toxicity.
      Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2007;85:674–680.


      I don’t trust any water sold here and purify the one I use. I’ve
      seen whole compounds with famillies having IQ levels worse than those
      I’ve observed in Africa and wouldn’t be surprised if the reason was
      mercury or other forms of poisonning.

  • boy_kurimaw

    china is killing all human being, what a smart move yellow monkey lol

  • pfckulapu_parin

    Ban all china product!!!

  • ReneV

    lead contaminated products come from china.

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