For some populations, other sources of lead may be more important than gasoline. The most acute and even fatal lead poisoning cases are associated with lead mining and processing. In a 1992 study of the Baia Mare (Big Mine), Romania, lead smelter workers had mean blood lead levels of 77.4 micrograms per deciliter. In children living near the lead smelter, mean blood lead levels of 63.3 micrograms per deciliter were measured .
Battery recycling is also an important source of lead exposures. On a global scale, 63 percent of all processed lead is used in the manufacturing of batteries . In Mexico, the Caribbean, and India, family-based industries use open furnaces in their backyards to recover lead from batteries by crude smelting. These cottage industries can result in extremely high lead exposures for the whole family. In Jamaica, children living near backyard smelter sites had mean blood lead levels nearly three times those of children from communities with no backyard smelting activities, according to a recent study . In 1991, an outbreak of lead poisoning occurred in Trinidad and Tobago where the soil was contaminated by wastes from battery recycling. Blood lead concentrations in children living in this area varied between 17 and 235 micrograms per deciliter, with an average of 72.1 micrograms per deciliter .
Lead-glazed pottery and lead pigments in children’s toys and pencils are other routes of exposure . Approximately 30 percent of the population in Mexico uses glazed pottery regularly, placing nearly 24 million people at risk of exposure to lead from this single source . Lead solder in aluminum cans can also pose significant risks; in Honduras, for instance, studies have shown that lead residues in canned food range from 0.13 to 14.8 milligrams per kilogram, far above WHO guidelines .
In the United States, despite much progress in reducing mean blood lead levels and eliminating lead from gasoline, lead poisoning remains a major health hazard for children under the age of 6. Approximately 1.7 million children in the United States have blood lead levels that exceed the recommended level of 10 micrograms per deciliter , with the highest average blood lead levels found among poor, urban, African-American, and Hispanic children . (See Lead Poisoning Threatens Many U.S. Children.) Lead-based paint is a major exposure route. Although lead has been banned from residential paint since 1978, about three quarters of all housing units built before 1980 contain some lead-based paint . Because lead-based paint is still used throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, this threatens to become a major route of exposure in those countries as well .
209. M.M. Verberk et al., “Environmental Pollution and Health,” The Lancet, Vol. 340, No. 8829 (November 14, 1992), p. 1221.
210. Op. cit. 190, p. 9.
211. T.D. Matte et al., “Lead Exposure from Conventional and Cottage Lead Smelting in Jamaica,” Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Vol. 21 (1991), pp. 65-71.
212. Isabelle Romieu et al., “Lead Exposure in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 105, No. 4 (April 1997), p. 399.
213. Op. cit. 202.
214. Lizbeth L