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".
TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) - Environmental lead exposure is a risk factor for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease mortality, according to a study published online March 12 in The Lancet Public Health. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to remove workers from exposure when their blood lead levels rise to 50 µg/dL in the construction industry or 60 µg/dL in other industries, and they can return to work when their blood lead levels go down to 40 µg/dL.
"A comprehensive strategy to prevent deaths from cardiovascular disease should include efforts to reduce lead exposure", the authors write.
People with higher lead exposure were 37-percent more likely to die prematurely from any cause.
The findings are reported in The Lancet's public health journal.
Researchers followed almost 14,300 participants for two decades and discovered that despite previous studies suggesting that low-level lead exposure did not increase the risk of premature death, this might not be the case.
Lead is most widely recognized as a hazard to children, who can suffer intellectual damage from even minimal exposure. The study lasted for 20 years, and included a round of lead testing right at the start.
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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 United States of America, particularly from cardiovascular disease". "The time has come to end inattention to the contribution of pollution to mortality from non-communicable diseases and to thoroughly re-examine lead's role in changing global patterns of cardiovascular disease". Using these risk levels, the researchers estimated 412,000 deaths each year in the US could be attributed to lead exposure, including 256,000 from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers got to those numbers by extrapolating from a nationally representative study of 14,000 adults.
Exposure to traces of lead in petrol and paint may be linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year.
The link held even at low-level exposure to lead.
The largest lead concentrations found in the study were 10 times higher. "The authors were also unable to control for all potential confounding factors, such as exposure to arsenic or air pollution, which are also risk factors for cardiovascular disease".
This means that out of the 412,000 victims of lead exposure every year, 256,000 people succumb to cardiovascular disease.
"Our study findings suggest that low-level environmental lead exposure is an important risk factor for death in the US, particularly from cardiovascular disease", the paper states.