Human beings are often exposed to various toxins within the environment without even being aware of their existence. These environmental toxins pose high threats to all life, either in human beings, animals, or plants. However, different toxins manifest in different forms in humans, animals, and plants upon exposure. Additionally, they take different forms in terms of odor, color, quantity, or distribution. This paper focuses on lead as an environmental toxin; it aims to provide information regarding its health hazards, effects, and distribution, control, and regulation measures (Lead and Your Health 13).
Section One: Data Sources
While there are a lot of toxic elements in the world, lead sets itself apart due to its high availability almost everywhere, and its interactions with human beings in many activities. Lead is the subject of this study due to its ability to stay in a harmful state for long periods upon introduction to the environment. Additionally, its nature and diverse sources necessitate close studies. Studies by the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) contend that children all over the world are the most exposed to lead poisoning through cumulative or single high-level exposure. This is in pathways such as soil, water, dust, food, or air (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly 33-37).
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead poisoning has shifted from gasoline to water fixtures and paints. Despite the 1978 ban of manufacture of high lead concentrated interior fixtures for houses, lead poisoning from paint still accounts for 90% of all poisoning in children (Consumer Product Safety Commission). This is because there are still a huge number of houses built before 1980 in use coupled with the fact that lead is an enduring toxin (Collin and Robert).
The National Institute of Health (NHI) notes that Pica (normally known as the craving for unnatural food by children) is a major way that children are exposed to lead toxicity. Paint is not toxic to individuals directly, but it breaks down/peels into smaller particles that children inhale or ingest by eating contaminated soil. The air in a house containing lead, if accessible to human beings, will cause poisoning; normally the lead particle will settle in the walls and could be inhaled upon sweeping or movements in the house.
It is notable that 74% of all houses built before 1980 contain the high level of lead; this was a government recommendation due to lead’s ability to make high-quality paint; however, paint containing high-level lead is still available currently in military, marine, and industrial usage and sometimes it ends up in homes (Lead and Your Health 18).
Section Two: Environmental Vulnerability
Human beings, especially children, remain vulnerable to lead poisoning, due to their lack of mental defense and tenderness. Children are playful with surfaces, easy to ingest dust particles through eating, crawling, and breathing.
Is this an Acute Environmental Threat?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that the continuance usage of lead is still at high levels of toxicity. Lead toxicity is an acute environmental concern and vulnerability of human beings to its potential harm is high due to the very nature of the element. It is found by the side of roads from the exhaust of leaded gasoline, soil due to improper disposal, and in water. It is an enduring element that does not decompose into an inert nature easily, despite long periods. Thus, it is likely to remain in the environment in a harmful nature for relatively long periods of time (CPSC).
Is It a Chronic Environmental Threat?
One out of five Americans is at risk of consuming leaded water; this gives lead a chronic profile in environmental threat. It has also been clear that appropriate measures and vigilance are not sufficient to reduce its threat from chronic to occasional. For instance, the US ban on leaded gasoline reduced lead toxins from gasoline by over 98%, but this is only the case because it is impossible to quantify the accumulated effects of those years of inhaling the leaded gas. The over 80% housing units containing leaded paint, lead fixtures, and plumbing material still undergo renovation under unsecured professional guidance. Consequently, lead is exposed afresh to the occupants, and this cycle may continue on other items making it a chronic problem. It is also important to appreciate the unlike chance of the human being free of contact with lead (Lee and Douglas 66).
Is It both Acute and Chronic?
With evidence of failed regulatory attempts and need for vigilance and lifestyle changes to beat lead poisoning, which is still lacking in many American cases, lead poisoning is both chronic and acute. It’s acute nature will manifest from its continuous usage in industries, which creates a chance for high-level exposure to workers there, and its wide usage which increases chances of human contact. It’s chronic nature is demonstrated by the unlikelihood of creating the lead poisoning free environment in a decade, since it is still an issue three decades after the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ban. It may remain chronic in the absence of vigilance and awareness in approaching leaded products (CPSC).
Is It Systemic?
Lead poisoning is ecological; it affects the environmental systematically. It could be through painted either by proximity or age of the paint. Water is also an ecological aspect of lead toxins through use of lead containing pipes. Lead presence in homes is clear, due to its wide usage in making windows, toys, doors, among others. It is also in food through consumption of plants grown on soil containing lead elements.
Is It a Targeted Species Threat?
Lead is harmful to human beings and animals, as well. It is mostly specific to human beings due to their close contact. It may also poison animals through food and water. Therefore, it is certainly not specific to species, but a threat by its inherent nature.
Section Three: Risk Assessment
How likely is it that the chemical will be released in sufficient amounts to do serious harm?
As long as human beings continue with their day-to-day activities, they will certainly come into contact with lead. Estimates show that nearly 1.8 million children have high levels of lead enough to cause harm. Studies indicate that children exposed to lead consumed 65% fungicides and herbicides sprayed on plants. This is enough to harm, given that they consume more relative to their body masses. Additionally, water with lead poison can be as toxic up to 7% from lead pipes; given that only 10g/dL is enough to harm, chances of sufficient release are high (Neumann et al 19).
How Severe Are the Consequences of the Potential Exposure?
Exposure to lead poisoning may cause diverse health issues categorized as circulatory, nervous, or reproductive. The consequences are particularly severe in children due to their nervous system sensitivity to lead poisoning. It may lead to inhibitions of hemoglobin or reproductive issues, such as still/premature births and miscarriages, as evident in women in lead trade. Its endocrine system causes poor bone and teeth development. Neurological effects include irritability, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness even at low-level exposure. High exposure causes reading, writing, and brain growth impairment, including death (Lee and Douglas).
How Wide Spread Is the Ecological Threat – How Many Ecosystems and/or Species are Threatened by the Expected Exposure?
Given that over 60% of all houses in Manhattan have lead painting today indicates that over 85% of urban areas are exposed to lead at homes. In the rural areas, consumers are more likely to ingest lead from their water pipes. Additionally, the fact that over 5% of all children in the US contain lead levels in the blood is enough to cause harm indicates that the threat is wide spread (Setterberg, Fred, and Shavelson 42).
How Available and Effective are Remedial Actions?
Since lead paint accounts for 90% of all lead poisoning, due to existing houses with lead paint, remedial actions, such as vacating the house while renovating, employing experts when scrubbing of paints among others, exist. Lead from lead made taps is also remediable since enduring plastic pipes are now present among others. Simple precautions, such as hand washing upon contact to avoid ingestion are also available; the gap is informational, and not remedial (Neumann et al 19).
Section Four: Plan of Action
How Can You Mitigate the Environmental Risks and Threats that You Cited in This Paper?
Since lead is not absorbed through the skin, but rather through breathing or ingestion, vacate houses being repainted if the house was constructed before the 80’s let experts test the paint. While washing use mops or soaps for cleaning, and wash hands later. Regarding taps, they allow water to run first, avoid hot water in taps, since its breaks lead faster, avoid heating foods with cans that they come in, and do not allow children to lick painted walls or furniture. Observing good hygiene and diet is very important since lead is highly absorbed when one is hungry (Lead and Your Health 13).
How Would You Determine What Environmental Chemical Threats You Contribute to by Your Own Actions?
It is also important to determine the certain actions that contribute to environmental threats. The most basic way is reviewing an individual’s habit regarding disposal of waste, which, if done wrongly, is a health concern. For instance, pouring lead-based paint in a garden contaminates that soil.
Identify and Include Actions the Responsible Government Agencies
The government must enforce the yet to be enforced Maximum Contamination Level Goals (MCLGs) that sets maximum lead level in water at 0.015mg/L and reviews the previous regulations that date back to 1991. It must carry out awareness since some lead contamination occurs at private levels beyond the regulatory scopes. Manufacturers must be socially responsible even for the least of actions regarding lead contamination, while the public must exercise the responsibility for their children to avoid contamination. Institutions, such as Indiana University, must be vigilant in informing, conducting more research on effects and alternatives to lead based items, hence, offer solutions, as well (Lead and Your Health 13).
Children consume suspect chemicals of the 560 million pounds of fungicides used on crops in the United States four times more compared to adults. Water with lead flows through the majority of homes, while over 50% of urban homes contain the lead based paint. This indicates that human beings cannot avoid contacting with lead, and it remains in the environment in a poisonous form for years. It’s presence in domestically used items such as taps and paints; coupled with the alarming numbers of children exposed to it and their sensitivity to its poisoning. It, thus, becomes a concern, not for today, but for the generations to come. Its toxic effects are clear, and studying it reduces its presence. It is a duty that this generation owes to the next so that they could find a lead free home, paint, water, air, soil, and food. Lastly, the fact that regulations such as Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) were last reviewed in 1991, and lead poisoning persists underscore the importance of this study and the need for a new vigilance against lead poisoning (Setterberg, Fred, and Shavelson 113).
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