What to Avoid to Help Protect Your Vision

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We all know lead exposure is not good for us. 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 these results with eye examination data 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.

Dr. Debra A. Schaumberg of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said the lead exposure of the participants in the study was “fairly typical of average levels of lead exposure” and much less than what would be expected among people exposed to lead on their jobs.

Since lead can cause so many health problems, including cataracts according to this latest study, it might be a good idea to assess your exposure to this toxic metal. Not sure if you’ve ever been exposed to lead? Most adults who have high levels of lead in their bodies have been exposed while at work. Occupations that would have (or are) putting you at risk include house painting, welding, renovation, the manufacture and disposal of car batteries, and the maintenance and repair of bridges and water towers. People who work at smelters and firing ranges are also at risk.

Even if you are not involved in any of the above occupations, you can still be exposed to lead in a number of different ways. 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. Also be aware that tap water can contain lead. Lead can leach into water from lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder.