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Number of Downlaods: 39

Published Date: May 15, 2003

Lead Exposure and Children: Blood Lead Levels in School Children Resulting from Leaded Petrol use and Increasing Road Traffic in Pakistan (P-31)

Mahmood A. Khwaja

Executive Summary

Increasing prosperity and population growths in many developing countries are resulting in accelerated growth in vehicle population and vehicle kilometers traveled. In Pakistan also the number of vehicles have jumped from 0.8 million to about 4.0 million within 20 years showing an overall increase of more than 400 %. Accordingly, the consumption of petrol (motor spirit) has increased from 828,670 metric tons to 1,189,042 metric tons. The high content of lead in petrol is a serious issue, as the end product of it is the release of lead into the environment. In Pakistan, prior to July 2001, lead content in petrol was reported to be as high as 0.35 – 0.84 gram per liter (however, presently all refineries in the country claim to be producing lead-free petrol).The reported lead levels in air (micrograms/cubic centimeter) in different cities of Pakistan are: Karachi (1980 – 81) 0.13 – 0.24; Peshawar (1994 – 95) 0.21 – 0.79; Lahore (1993 – 94) 0.15 – 8.36 & (1999- 2000) 0.89 – 7.85 and Rawalpindi (1999 – 2000) 0.71 – 10.00, indicating the very alarming increase and high levels of lead in the ambient air, at the reported sites and time of monitoring. Children in developing countries with dietary deficiencies are very susceptible to lead poisoning. Special concern of lead poisoning has been the accumulation of experimental and epidemiological evidence suggesting that lead is a neurotoxin and it impairs brain development in children even at levels that were considered safe. Blood lead levels (BPbLs) have been studied in 900 healthy school children (boys & girls), mostly below 15 years of age and belonging to lower income families, in some cities of Pakistan. The overall mean BPbLs (micrograms per deciliter) in three cities were found to be 22.8 +/- 3.30, 19.00 +/- 6.48 and 2.30 +/- 0.19 (rural site). Details of these investigations and government national environment action plan (NEAP), with special reference to clean air by providing clean fuel and taking others air pollution control measures are described and discussed in this paper.

Key words: Lead exposure, BPbLs, Petrol, Children