ANSWER: Nov 30 2011
I'm currently trying to
achieve the end of leaded gasoline globally by the end of 2011 so I only have
one month to go!! Thus my very brief answers to you.
Lead is poisonous because
the body cannot tell the difference between lead and calcium or iron or zinc.
When lead is available in our environment, and we either breathe it or eat it or
get it on our skin, the lead is absorbed and replaces these essential trace
minerals. We need calcium and iron and zinc in every cell of our bodies and they
are especially necessary for a healthy (smart) brain, heart and reproductive
system. So when lead replaces these essential trace minerals in our bodies,
every function of every organ is poisoned and that's why the list of possible
health effects of lead is four pages long! See https://lead.org.au/fs/Health_Impacts_of_Lead_Poisoning.pdf
An old woman who had been lead
poisoned as a very young child, once told me that the most helpful doctor she
ever saw, explained to her that lead affects whatever is weakest in you. In her
case, her eyes were weak (everyone in her family wore glasses) and lead had
caused her to go blind. Lead will take away IQ points for all children who are
poisoned by it, but if you come from a very smart family, you can still end up
with a high IQ - it will just be less than it might have been, if you were not
exposed to lead. For most lead poisoned people, lead is dangerous because it
causes early death from heart attack or stroke.
We use lead because it is
cheap, has been mined and smelted for thousands of years (so there's a lot of it
around), is recyclable (even when you die and get cremated, or if you have
babies, the lead in you is recycled into the environment or into your children)
and has many many attributes that make it useful, but mainly, we keep using it,
despite it causing millions of deaths, because it is cheap and sadly, humans
tend to put profit before people. For instance, a United Nations study has
declared that using lead in gasoline has caused 1.1 million deaths globally,
annually, and yet, the US company that makes the lead additive for gasoline,
insists on selling it for probably another year, just so they can make more
profit. Some of the many uses of lead are at http://www.mbendi.com/indy/ming/ldzc/p0005.htm#5
and a more detailed list is at https://lead.org.au/lasn/lasn006.html although
I hear about at least one new use of lead every year or so.
"Lead has been commonly used for thousands of years because it is
widespread, easy to extract and easy to work with. It is highly malleable and
ductile as well as easy to smelt. Metallic lead beads dating back to 6400 BCE
have been found in Çatalhöyük in modern-day Turkey." [Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead
] That is, so far, the first known makers of lead objects are the Chalcolithic
("Copper Age") settlers in southern Anatolia, now called Turkey.
Lead is absorbed into
plants from the soil when water dissolves the lead (which occurs only when the
soil is acidic) the lead-contaminated water is taken up via the roots and
distributed around the plant through the xylem. To reduce the uptake of lead by
plants from low pH soil (acidic soil), you need to add lime to the soil and
bring it to the neutral pH of 7. You should note that the most common way to
accidentally eat lead when you eat plants is because lead-contaminated soil can
be ON the herb or vegetable or fruit. So you can avoid lead on plants by washing
plant food before you eat it or, if the soil is stuck in the cracks in the roots
such as carrots or turnips, you can peel these root vegetables so you don't end
up eating lead.
To find out all the large
facilities in the world where lead is mined and smelted and made into lead
products, go to www.mbendi.com but you should note that lead is a product not
only of lead mines and lead smelters, but also of zinc mines and smelters, and
copper and tin and silver and gold mines and smelters. And once lead has been
refined, or recycled from old car batteries or other old lead products, it can
be easily heated and moulded into a huge variety of shapes, or added to other
metals to make alloys which have hundreds of uses, or added to fuels or plastics
or explosives or fireworks or a range of other chemicals so it is basically true
to say that lead is made everywhere where laws do not protect people from it.
You'll probably find that your suburb previously had a lead foundry or smelter
or battery recycler, but lucky for you, these small backyard industries are now
controlled in the United States and in some other Western countries.
Unfortunately for all the children and adults in Africa, Asia and South America,
these backyard and home kitchen operations continue to turn car battery lead
into things like bottle tops for soda bottles, toys and jewellery for children,
craftworks, ceramic glazes for plates and cups, paint for homes and toys, etc.
If you would like to send me a
copy of the results of your research, I'd be glad to consider it for
web-publication. These are good questions and it would be wonderful if more
children knew the answers to them.
All the best.