Lead is a poisonous metal present in a variety of commercial products, as a pollutant from industrial activities, and as an environmental contaminant in many urban and rural habitats throughout the world. When ingested or inhaled, the body "mistakes" lead for calcium and other beneficial metals, and thus transports lead into nerve cells and other vital tissues.
Mankind has long known about lead as an agent of sickness and death, but medical studies published in the last five to ten years are showing harmful effects at unexpectedly low levels of exposure. There are permanent adverse impacts upon cognitive function and growth in children with histories of blood levels averaging less than one-tenth of one microgram per gram—a level formerly considered benign.
Scientific evidence of the effects of lead on human health has brought forth large scale restrictions on its use in the United States, including the prohibition of lead in many gasolines and paints. Responses on behalf of wildlife have been less forthcoming, but consumption of lead shot by ducks and geese and secondary poisoning of Bald Eagles contributed to the 1991 ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting in the United States. Other countries have instituted similar measures.
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