Lead is a highly toxic pollutant that can damage neurological, cardiovascular, immunological, developmental, and other major organ systems. While lead exposure is most often identified as a threat to child IQ and has been quantified as such, Abt scientists developed an approach to quantify the effect changes in lead exposure has on the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults. Using their method along with data from four previously published epidemiological studies, the Abt researchers determined that the decreases in blood lead levels that occurred between 1999 and 2014 resulted in 34,000 to 99,000 deaths having been avoided. This means that 16 percent to 46 percent of the decrease in the CVD-related mortality rate from 1999 to 2014 can be attributed to decreased lead exposure. Based on these findings, reductions in blood lead levels, even from the current low level exposures in the general population, can result in substantial public health gains. Such exposure can be via tap water, dust in homes with older paint, food, or even particles in the air.
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