Lead Exposure Can Cause Vision Problems

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You probably know that lead exposure is not good for you. If lead accumulates in your body, it can increase blood pressure, and cause fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability, and memory or concentration problems.

And now a new study published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” has found a link between cloudy vision and lead poisoning. A team of doctors at the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital used data from a huge long-term study involving aging men called the Normative Aging Study (NAS).

The doctors first reviewed 795 NAS participants after their bone lead levels were measured. They compared this with eye examination data that was routinely collected every three to five years for the period after the bone lead measurements were taken. The doctors then limited the age of participants to 60 years and older. The remaining 642 participants were divided into five groups according to lead levels in the body.

The researchers found that those in the group with the highest lead levels were almost three times as likely as those in the bottom group to have developed cataracts over the eight years covered in the study. And those in the second-highest group also had an elevated risk.

How can you avoid exposure to lead? The biggest culprit is older household paint. Up until 1978, lead paint was commonly used inside and outside houses. It has been estimated that there are about 38 million homes in the U.S. that still contain lead paint. When this paint deteriorates and starts to crumble and flake, it can get into household dust and become airborne. It can also contaminate the soil around your home. As many as 24 million homes in the U.S. may have lead-contaminated dust being tracked around the house and floating in the air that is being breathed indoors.

One other common source of lead exposure is soil. The past use of leaded gasoline has resulted in vehicle emissions that have settled into soil, especially near busy roads and highways. If you are planting a backyard vegetable garden, it might be a good idea to have the soil tested for lead before you start eating anything you’ve grown.