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The Dangers of Lead Metal Scouting Children’s Development and Health

Universitas Indonesia > News > Faculty of Medicine News > The Dangers of Lead Metal Scouting Children’s Development and Health

UI researchers conducted dissemination of research results regarding lead exposure experienced by residents in five villages in Indonesia, namely Kadu Jaya Village (Tangerang), Cinangka Village (Bogor), Cinangneng Village (Bogor), Pesarean Village (Tegal), and Dupak Village (Surabaya). The dissemination, which was held on Wednesday at IMERI-Faculty of Medicine UI, aimed to spread information about the causes of lead exposure and its negative impact on public health, especially children.

Director of IMERI-Faculty of Medicine UI, Prof. Dr. Badriul Hegar, Ph.D., Sp.A(K), said that the research conducted in May-August 2023 was a collaboration between the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Center (OEHRC) IMERI-Faculty of Medicine UI and the Pure Earth Indonesia Foundation. This research involved UI academics, namely Dr. Marinda Asiah Nuril Haya, M. Med.Sci, Ph.D; Dr. M. Ilyas, Sp.Ok, Subsp.ToksiKO(K), Dr. Ade Mutiara, MKK, Sp.Ok; Dr. Ari Prayogo, Sp.A, Dr. Dewi Yunia F, Sp.Ok, and Nickolaus Hariojati.

According to Prof. Badriul, research on lead exposure is important because of the dangerous neurotoxin whose exposure can cause health problems, such as congenital abnormality, brain injury, cardiovascular, and kidney disease. “If exposed for a long period, people can experience oxidative stress. Therefore, it’s a challenge for Community Medicine to design preventive and promotive strategies to overcome and reduce lead exposure,” he said.

Lead exposure to the body can penetrate through the respiratory, digestive, and skin systems. Constant accumulation of lead exposure can increase Blood Lead Levels (BLL) which causes poisoning and health problems. WHO recommends an adverse event of 5 µg/dL as a marker of environmental exposure sources that need to be overlooked, so it is recommended that the BLL not exceed the number. Meanwhile, 45 µg/dL is the BLL limit for considering therapy.

A study of BLL in children in 5 villages in Java showed that almost 90% of children’s BLL exceeded the WHO-suggested limit, and 19 children (3.4%) of them needed therapy. A study of more than 500 respondents from children aged 12–59 months showed that 34% of the children who had BLL above 20 µg/dL 34% had anemia. Meanwhile, 14% of children with BLL above 20 µg/dL had anemia and suffered from stunting.

In this study, researchers looked for potential sources of exposure by conducting a home-based analysis. Sampling was conducted to measure the lead content in the soil, wall paint, dust, water, air, cooking spices, cooking utensils, bedding, clothing, and children’s toys. The results found that the high blood lead levels of children were influenced by fathers or parents who had high blood lead levels and lead contamination in the soil. This pollution is influenced by industrial activities, one of which is an inadequate recycling procedure of used batteries.

Professor of the Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine UI, Prof. Dr. Muchtaruddin Mansyur, M.S., Sp.Ok(K), Ph.D., said that the findings in the research were serious to be addressed. “Delays in treatment will affect the quality of life of future generations because heart disease and other chronic diseases soar. Supporting the capacity of the health sector to recognize and prevent environmental lead exposure and health impacts must be prioritized,” he said.

Therefore, the public is advised to know what has the potential to cause lead exposure and the preventive actions. At the household level, they must maintain a clean and healthy lifestyle by washing their hands before eating, using footwear when playing or going outside, changing clothes after outdoor activities, breastfeeding, and giving nourishing meals. If children have health complaints due to lead exposure, take them immediately to the nearest health center to receive medical treatment under the recommendations of the Indonesian Pediatrician Association.

Meanwhile, at the sectoral level, stakeholders are expected to develop appropriate strategies and interventions. Director of the Pure Earth Indonesia Foundation, Budi Susilorini, said, “Lead is very dangerous, especially for children, and we can be unprotected from our neighborhood. Lead contamination in the environment and its impact on health encourage us to take action for treatment and prevention. The availability of data that describes field conditions is necessary as material for cross-sectoral discussions. Therefore, similar studies can develop into a national surveillance program.”

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