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Expert Q&A

Why Lead Poisoning Prevention Matters

Daniel Kass Senior Vice President, Environmental Health

Q&A with Daniel Kass, SVP Environmental Health

What are the most important sources of lead exposure for children?

Sources of lead exposure vary by location. In many countries, lead-based paint often found in older homes is the leading source. As the paint peels or chips, young children can become exposed. In other countries, lead dust from occupational sources such as mining or battery recycling can be the leading source. Children can inhale or ingest lead dust or particles. Lead in unregulated consumer products—for example, toys—is also important. It is therefore paramount to understand the sources of exposure to properly address the issue.

Why haven’t more countries moved to ban lead in paint?

The majority of countries simply don’t know how many children are being exposed, or how severe the exposure is. Many are ill-equipped to enforce regulations in consumer products. And, mining industries are politically powerful and exploit perceptions that development needs trump environmental health concerns.

What would make the biggest difference?

Surveillance and elimination of sources are key. Unless active surveillance is conducted on a regular basis, response efforts will be reactive and children will continue to be exposed. There are several ways to protect children, but the most wide-reaching involves implementing or enforcing policies that reduce or eliminate the potential for exposure. Finally, improving public awareness of the issue will help parents and caretakers protect their children.

What is Vital Strategies doing to address lead poisoning?

We are currently working to address lead poisoning in Peru with ambitions to expand our program to other countries. There are numerous proven and cost-effective strategies to prevent exposure: surveillance, hazard assessment, source reduction and regulatory response. We are touching upon all of these strategies to improve our understanding of the issue, build capacity to respond, and increase the public’s understanding.