Exposure to lead is extremely harmful to children and adults—the health effects are generally irreversible and can have lifelong impact. Most vulnerable are unborn fetuses, and a pregnant woman can transfer lead to her developing child. Evidence of reduced intelligence from childhood lead exposure has caused the World Health Organization to recognize “lead-caused mental retardation” as a disease.
Related to Policy Area
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a group of toxic chemicals—including some pesticides and by-products of industry—that remain in the environment, in food chains, and in human bodies for many years, causing endocrine disruptions and other health problems.
Exposure to high levels of mercury can permanently damage the brain and kidneys and has been shown to affect a developing fetus, even months after the mother's exposure. In the aquatic environment, mercury can be transformed into methylmercury, a compound that is more toxic at low doses than pure mercury, absorbed by sea life, and then ingested by humans and other animals that eat seafood.
Though some pesticides toxic to humans, other animals and the environment have been banned from use, implementation of the bans is inconsistent, and illegal use still occurs. In addition, other highly hazardous pesticides are also in current use around the world.