UNICEF to introduce blood lead test in Ghana in early 2022

Lead poisoning occurs when heavy metal builds up in the body, often over a period of time. It is found naturally in soil, but has some uses where it finds application in certain consumer products such as lead-acid batteries used in vehicles, paints, and those used to paint children’s toys.

The exercise, which is expected to begin in early 2022, aims to verify the possibility of expanding the availability of test kits in public health reference laboratories as well as other establishments, Dr Edith Clarke, health specialist at the ‘UNICEF and coordinator of the protection of the potential of every child (PECP), said.

Dr Clarke made the revelation in an interview with the Ghanaian News Agency in Accra.

She said the move was necessary because currently blood samples from suspected lead poisoning cases were brought to the Ghana Standards Authority and sometimes transported out of the country for testing, but with the initiative. , they could be tested locally and in health facilities.

“As part of a project undertaken by UNICEF in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service and other stakeholders, there is a provision to introduce blood lead testing at the local level to verify feasibility,” he said. she reiterated.

She said it was a major problem affecting so many children around the world, saying it is estimated that one in three children worldwide have blood lead levels above a certain level. called the level of concern.

According to her, “this level was until recently five deciliters, but still reduced to three, which means that even at this low level, lead poisoning still tended to damage the brain of a developing child and other organs.

She said that despite the lack of national data to determine the number of children affected by lead poisoning, they hoped that, as part of the project, generalized testing would be incorporated into some national surveys to be conducted periodically in the country.
Exposure to lead could have serious health consequences for five-year-old children. At high levels of exposure, it attacks the brain and physical development, which could be fatal at high levels, she added.

“For unborn babies, it can pass through the mother’s circulation into the unborn child’s body and until the age of five to six, it still exerts damage, causing irreparable damage. “she said.

Dr Clarke noted that the actual magnitude of lead released to the environment was unknown due to several activities such as the scrap metal trade, the burning of electronic waste from gadgets, emissions from factories as well as exposure to chemicals. lead acid batteries.

She said it was therefore important to prevent children from playing with used lead-acid batteries, just like pregnant women because they inhale more of the substance released into the atmosphere.

She also mentioned that some products containing lead in the communities include paints, brightly colored children’s toys and cosmetics.

Some inexpensive cosmetics, such as lipsticks, face powders are types that may contain lead. The more expensive ones contain or may contain lower concentrations. Therefore, women had to be quite curious when purchasing such products, she advised.

The health specialist said parents working in industries where lead is emitted should be made aware of the dangers so as not to bring it home, adding that scrap metal activities should also be parked far away to protect children. .

She said children consuming paint that was peeling off buildings was very dangerous and called on parents to make sure their children always wash their hands frequently, especially after playing with and in the ground.

Dr Clarke called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce enough controls with the Factory Inspectorate to put in place more stringent measures to control factory emissions into the environment.

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