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Study: Lead threat in developing countries

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Children living near battery manufacturing and recycling plants in developing countries have 13 times more lead in their blood than U.S. children, a study says.

"Children and workers in developing countries face significant risks of lead poisoning, which can cause lifelong health problems," said Perry Gottesfeld of Occupational Knowledge International, the lead author of the study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

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"Without major improvements, we expect that lead poisoning cases will continue to increase as the industry grows," he said.

The study comes following reports of a large number of mass lead poisoning incidents around lead battery recycling and manufacturing plants in China, which says it has recently closed 583 such facilities.

Almost 80 percent of global lead production goes into the battery industry, and in many developing countries the lead battery industry is expected to almost double in size in the next decade, the study reported.

"At the exposure levels observed, developing countries are losing billions of dollars as a result of reduced school performance, loss of productivity and increased medical costs," Gottesfeld said.

"Given the lack of regulatory and enforcement capacity in most developing countries, third party certification programs may be the only viable option to improve conditions, protect human health and strengthen these nations' economies."

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