New research has shown that about one in three children worldwide has been high levels of lead in their blood, putting their mental and physical health at risk.
The groundbreaking report was produced by the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and the environmental group, Pure Earth.
The report found that up to 800 million children globally have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per decilitre.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), levels as this may be associated with decreased intelligence in children, behavioural difficulties and learning problems.
It warns that the concentrations can be so high that they stop the development of the brain, heart and other vital organs.
The lead comes mainly from inadequately recycled waste, like batteries, and industries such as mining and open-air smelters.
Africa and South Asia are the worst affected regions.
Researchers added that adults have also been impacted by lead exposure, leading to over 900,000 premature deaths every year.
The report suggests public education about the dangers of lead poisoning needs to be an urgent goal for governments worldwide, followed up with proper testing and treatment as well legislation that curbs the production of lead-based products and improves recycling processes.