Lead Poisoning that you should be aware of
In the past two and a half years, thousands of workers, villagers and children in at least 9 of mainland China’s 31 province-level regions have been found to be suffering from toxic levels of lead exposure, mostly caused by pollution from battery factories and metal smelters. The cases underscore a pattern of government neglect seen in industry after industry as China strives for headlong growth with only poor safeguards.
This article will brief you about the salient points on lead poisoning our readers and workers should be aware of.
Lead can creep into your body in two ways: inhalation (breathing) and ingestion (eating). You can swallow lead dust if it gets into your food including drinks. You can swallow lead dust even if you don’t wash your hands before eating your rice and curry meal. Batik designed plates manufactured in Sri Lanka were banned in Australia in the nineteen seventies due to high lead content.
Lead getting into our bodies will not be excreted as most other poisons by detoxification in the liver and excretion through your urine. It also has a tendency to build up over the years in your body. High levels damage the brain, kidneys, nerves and blood cells. This is what we call lead poisoning.
Health problems depend on how much your body has got contaminated with lead over the years. Higher levels mean high levels of damage.
Early symptoms of lead poisoning you should be aware of
Lead could be in the air at workplace. Your employer should check frequently the lead in the air of the workplace, if required or suspected. The lead in the air of workplace should not be more than 50ug (micrograms) per meter, averaged over 8 hours.
The air monitoring results should be available to the workers exposed, by law.
The precautionary and safe work practices in such working places should be
Lead contamination at home
Lead poisoning on Sri Lankan Roads
USAID also assisted the World Bank and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in forming the Air Quality Management Center, which carries out nationwide emissions and fuel standards programs and implements campaigns to increase environmental awareness and communicate with the public.
Then Secretary Don S. Jayaweera of the Ministry of Transport said that “USAID has provided a remarkable amount of resources and global experiences through training and programs that accomplished several important achievements through hard work and setting ambitious targets to attain better air quality”.
The ambient air lead levels dropped 90 percent during the trial 100 days. The government initiated centers all over the country testing programs to take stringent vehicle emission standards on all roads worthy vehicles.
On most city roads the three wheelers have almost taken over the roads and parking lots. They are a menace to other vehicle drivers, but transport community service they render is immeasurable. These two stroke engines fitted in them, emit substantial quantities of hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter.
These pollutants have significant adverse health effects and deteriorate environmental quality. The contribution to urban air pollution where these vehicles are in use has become an increasingly common phenomenon. This is especially noticed in densely populated areas in towns and villages relying on two-wheel vehicles as an essential means of transportation.
The government did put a ban on two stroke engine three wheelers a few years back; stopping imports by year 2012, but will allow the existing ones to run on the roads. Most three wheelers now use lead free high octane gasoline, but it is unlikely that the pollution level will be eased. The buses and vans, including trains are the other culprits polluting our air. In some countries the emission from exhaust gases in tuks tuks have been minimized by catalysts technology used to treat exhaust gases from two wheeler vehicles. Now all three wheelers imported have 4 stroke engines and to what degree the pollution will be minimized, time will tell us.
Catalytic exhaust controls have been developed in most countries and are generally recognized to be the most cost-effective way to meet stringent emission Standards. Thus, fully developed and proven emission control systems are readily available and being implemented in some countries.
Current vehicle inspection system in Sri Lanka focuses on the physical fitness of the vehicle including smoke levels. Vehicle inspection is carried out at three levels, one at the original registration for all vehicles, second is only an annual inspection for commercial vehicles (Buses and Trucks), and last is on roadside by the Police. Most of the older vehicles seen on our roads are not really roadworthy. How they escape inspection is difficult to explain.
The Motor Traffic Act of Sri Lanka has included regulation to fine the vehicle, which have high smoke levels. This does not include any standard of pollutants. It is the duty of Sri Lankan Police to fine these vehicles observing the visible smoke levels. These kinds of detractions are limited to very small number (only 34 cases for 2000).
Most victims from these emission pollutions are the commuters who wait for their route buses for hours invariably in the hot sun. It is a sad event in most developing countries and the governments are finding it difficult to handle the health problems created by such emissions. (ref: www.un.org/esa/gite/iand/jayaweerapaper)
Agrochemical poisoning in Sri Lanka
About 75% of such cases of poisoning were due to self-ingestion while accidental and occupational poisoning formed the balance. Principal agricultural districts like Kurunegala, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Nuwara-Eliya and Badulla recorded the highest incidence of poisoning. ( ref: Forensic Science International Vol 36, Issues 1-2 Jan 1988).
The readers of this article will realize that these pollutants from gas emissions and pesticides are a danger to our people dwelling in the cities or in villagers. Where can you breathe fresh air in the paradise? Think about it! Possibly in well air-conditioned vehicles and then breathe easy.
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