Lead: Ecotoxicology

Authored by: Sven Erik Jørgensen

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:


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Lead is dispersed globally mainly due to the combustion of leaded gasoline, which has now been phased out in industrialized countries. The use of leaded ammunition has also been banned in most industrialized countries. The global dispersion of lead can be seen by the concentration of lead in the glacial ice on Greenland, having increased 10-fold during the last 250 years. Lead can be found everywhere in the ecosphere, including in food items. The regional lead concentrations in river water may often be several hundred times higher than the concentrations found in the open sea. One of the consequences of the application of leaded gasoline has been that the lead concentration in the blood of people living in big towns is significantly higher than that in the blood of a rural population. The elevated lead concentration in the blood of humans has two sources: atmospheric pollution and the contamination of food items. The two sources have a different uptake efficiency of respectively approximately 50% and 10%. The lead uptake from food and the atmosphere by humans has declined during the last 25 years due to the phasing out of leaded gasoline. The spectrum of toxicological and ecotoxicological effects of lead is very wide. The pollution abatement methods and the integrated environmental management of lead are shortly discussed with references to other entries.

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