National Workshop on Lead Exposure: Prevention and Control of Poisoning was organised by the Industrial Toxicological Research Centre (ITRC) from 12-14 June 2001, in Lucknow. The WHO and MoEF sponsored Workshop drew participation from scientists, doctors specialising in occupational health and representatives of environmental NGO’s. It aimed at focussing on excessive use of lead in common products, its consequential hazards, prevention and control. The participants also discussed monitoring of lead, factors influencing lead poisoning and its treatment. Mr. Pradeep Kumar, Chairman of Uttar Pradesh (UP) State Pollution Control Board, in his inaugural address highlighted the problems environmental pollution in UP and actions initiated by the state government for its prevention.
Dr. Dinesh Kumar, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad, discussed the ways of monitoring lead in human beings and pointed out that the toxic impact of lead is more in children. The blood lead level of 10 mg/dL is normal concentration but a level above this poses multiple health problems. According to him, the people working in lead based industries have higher risk of lead poisoning and hence there is a need for constant monitoring of their blood lead level. Thiamine intake can to some extent reduce the accumulation of lead in body. Dr. S.S. Gautam, Regional Labour Institute (RLI), Kanpur, described the problems due to lead exposure in labours working in lead based factories. Citing the Indian Factory Act, 1948, he said that it calls upon the state government to make strict orders to prevent the exposure by inhalation of dust, fumes and improvement of safety and health management system in factory. Lead poisoning is also a notified disease under this Act. Dr. H. N. Saiyed, Director, National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahemdabad said that after the introduction of unleaded petrol, the blood lead level has reduced in Ahemdabad and Delhi. Dr. F.N. Jaffery (ITRC) presented her report on ‘Current Status of Lead Poisoning in India’. Her presentation contained database depicting possible sources of lead exposure in India, concentration of lead in ayurvedic medicine and also possible treatment, prevention and intervention strategies for lead poisoning in India. Dr. D. Caussy, World Health Organisation (WHO) discussed ‘Epidemiological Approaches to Assess Impact of Lead Exposure.’ According to Dr. S. Awasthi (KGMC, Lucknow), two million children suffer from lead poisoning world-wide. He also said that children are more sensitive towards lead poisoning due to their high metabolic rate, rapid growth and cell differentiation. Basic clinical evidences for lead poisoning are nausea, nephropathy, anoxia, anaemia, growth failure etc. Dr. U.K. Mishra (SGPGIMS, Lucknow) emphasised that lead exposure to common people is due to leaded petrol and lead poisoning also results in brain damage, decrease heme-synthesis, kidney failure and bone weakness.
Dr. T. Venkatesh (St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore) said that the common ways of intake of lead is due to ignorance. Polished pencils wood, water from sealed water pipes, wrapping eatables in newspapers, electronic toys and many of the ayurvedic medicine contain lead. He also said that the chronic lead poisoning can be cured by using EDTA, BAL and DMSA. Dr. M.M. Ali (ITRC) mentioned that memory loss, decrease in intelligence, loss in visual memory among the people was found with lead level above the normal concentration of 10mg/dL. Dr. Veena Kalra (AIIMS, New Delhi) observed human body does not need lead even in trace quantity. She emphasised that patients with lead poisoning are generally with low IQ, colic, anaemia, nephropathy, hypertension etc. She also said that in AIIMS they have started measuring blood lead level. Dr. S.J.S. Flora (DRDO, Gwalior) said that chelation therapy can cure the chronic lead poisoning in the patient but instead of importing its medicine, we should try to make effort to prepare them in India. According to Dr. R.C. Murthy (ITRC) Atomic Absorption Spectrometry and Anodic Stripping Voltametry are the best methods to estimate lead concentration
Dr. S. K. Bhattacharya (NIOH) emphasised on ‘Psychological Studies in Lead Exposed Children.’ The recommendations were made on three main focussing areas of prevention & control of Lead Poisoning. (I) Lead Monitoring: Current Practices & Limitations. (II) Factors Influencing the Lead Poisoning & High Risk Population for Prevention & Control of lead poisoning. (III) Strategies for Control of Lead Exposure & Treatment of Poisoning.
Dr. M. M. Dutta (WHO), in his Valedictory Address said that WHO was deeply concerned about lead contamination and this workshop had covered the crucial upcoming problem due to metal pollution. Lead being a metal with low cost, low melting points, malleability, corrosion resistant, high ability to form metal-carbon compounds and its recyclability, is used excessively as pigments, pottery, plastics, paints, dyes, storage battery and as anti-knocking agent. Thus, the Workshop provided with sufficient guidelines for prevention and control of the lead poisoning in India.
* School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-67.