Lead Contamination

The role of metals in the development and establishment of technical human culture is extremely high. Their hardness, ductility and malleability contributed to their acceptance as materials for making tools and production. However, human industrial activity has led to serious consequences – pollution of the ecological system of the planet with toxic substances. It is known that one of them – lead and its compounds – is very dangerous to humans. In fact, it is proven that lead is a metal which, in case of contact with skin or if ingested, causes the greatest number of acute illnesses.

Based on the real environmental situation typical for major cities, the understanding of the seriousness of the effects of acute and chronic lead intoxication remains to be a serious problem. Usually, environmental contamination by lead is done by the direct production of lead and its compounds, extraction of lead from other raw materials and the use of lead in the production of various products, etc. The highest lead emissions into the atmosphere are observed in the following industries:

  • Steel industry(98% of total emissions);
  • Engineering;
  • Fuel and energy complex;
  • Chemical complex;
  • Glass manufacturers;
  • Cannery;
  • Woodworking, pulp and paper industry;
  • Defense industry (Markowitz, 2000).

All together these industries contribute to the worsening of the ecological situation on the planet. Consequently, people suffer from various health complications, which are closely connected to lead exposure. When exposed to unfavorable conditions, a human being is able to perform any activity qualitatively and accurately for some time although it does not exclude changes in his/her functional state. Such compensatory-adaptive reactions of a human body allow a person to continue his/her biological existence in adverse conditions. It should be noted that in contrast to organic compounds, lead is not destroyed but accumulated in water and soil biomass. Therefore, the price of such compensation is extremely high being another indication of the relevance of this problem.

Nervous system is a delicate and sensitive indicator of the state of an organism, and it determines its ability to respond to different environmental factors. The most complex manifestations of brain activity include memory, learning and orientation (Raviraja, 2008). They play a significant role in the adaptation to changing environmental conditions. With lead intoxication, the most delicate and sensitive associative brain functions are affected. Scientific researchers have shown that the appropriate maximum permissible dose of lead with chronic poisoning lead to a defeat of brain mechanisms of spatial orientation, learning and memory (Mamtani et al., 2008). Recently, more and more often, neurological effects of lead exposure at levels previously considered as safe are identified.

In addition, the results of molecular studies in recent years suggest that lead in vanishingly small concentrations (subnanomolar, nanomolar) is present in normal metabolic processes of living organisms being one of the naturally occurring chemical elements of the natural environment (Mamtani et al., 2008). However, the drama of the situation related to lead, which is inherent in living organisms, lies in the fact that lead entering a body can be accumulated chronically even in small doses. In this situation, the concept of “a maximum allowable concentration” for lead loses any reasonable sense. In this context, the problem of lead toxicity requires very serious and responsible attitude aimed at prevention of a possible real tragedy that threatens all life on the Earth. In order to reduce lead pollution, first of all, the use of leaded gasoline must be reduced since it is a source of fuel and lead emissions to the atmosphere. A number of plants that delay lead from absorption should be created. Among natural installation, all kinds of vegetation can be named (Godish, 2003). Creating at least a minor obstacle is not much, but it would reduce the degree of lead poisoning. Thus, the problem of lead pollution is very urgent. Hence, in order to reduce the risk of morbidity, a number of measures at both governmental and nationwide levels should be taken.

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