Electronic waste in workshop in New Delhi, India, July 29, 2020.
. / Adnan Abidi (ADNAN ABIDI /)

By Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI, Jul 30 (.) – Almost one in three children in the world has high levels of lead in their blood, according to a new study that indicates that widespread contamination with this heavy metal puts millions of young people at risk of suffering irreversible mental and physical damage.

Some 800 million children have levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or more in their bloodstream, said the study by Unicef ​​and the Pure Earth environmental group. This figure is considered high enough to affect the development of the brain, nervous system, and vital organs such as the heart and lungs.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said high levels of lead in children are a « cause for action, » according to the report, which referred to improper recycling of batteries. and to open-air smelters among the main pollutants.

« The unequivocal conclusion of this investigation is that children worldwide are being poisoned with lead on a massive and previously unrecognized scale, » the report said Thursday.

The study cited a wide range of responsible factors, from improper recycling of lead-acid batteries and lead paint leaking houses to electronic waste dumps and food contamination from the use of lead-enameled pottery.

Batteries could be the main culprits, since almost 85% of the lead used in the world is destined for its production, for use in telecommunications and electrical backup equipment, in addition to conventional and electric cars.

Although more than 95% of lead in batteries is recycled in the United States and Europe, developing economies lack facilities to reuse heavy metal, according to the study.

The report also said that the longer the toxin goes undetected and untreated in the bloodstream, the more dangerous and life-threatening it becomes.

(Edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)