Research on the global risk of lead exposure found one in three children is exposed to the toxic metallic element, possibly causing irreversible damage.

The UNICEF and Pure Earth report "The Toxic Truth: Children's exposure to lead pollution" revealed that poisonous lead may affect around 800 million children, with many of them coming from low and middle-income countries.

The report stated that inadequately recycled batteries, mining, e-waste, and paints are the primary sources of lead poisoning. Children living in various South Asian countries account for nearly half the global total, BBC News reported.

The study's authors said, their findings were principally based on the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) data, which collated blood test results on tens of thousands of kids around the world. The IHME is responsible for the research tool publication, the Global Burden of Disease.

Dr. Nicholas Rees, one of the authors of the report, told BBC the number of vehicles in low and middle-income countries increased since 2000, which possibly also caused a sharp rise in lead-acid battery recycling, usually in an unsafe manner.

Around 85% of lead globally is used in producing lead-acid batteries, and most of it comes from recycled car batteries. "As a result, as much as half of the used lead-acid batteries end up in the informal economy," the report said. lead battery lead battery Photo: Capri23auto/Pixabay

The UNICEF report also stated that the loose and often illegal recycling businesses open the battery cases, spilling lead dust and acid into the ground, as well as melt and cast lead in open-air incinerators that emit toxic dust and fumes that contaminate neighborhoods nearby.

Children Are Most Vulnerable

Experts say the food consumption of children, and their liquid and air intake are five times more as compared to adults, based on their body to weight ratio. "That means they can absorb more of this potent neurotoxin if it has leached into the soil and water or has spread in the air where the child is," the report stated.

It also added that babies and children below five years of age are at most risk because it can damage their brains before it fully develops. This leads to permanent cognitive, neurological, and physical impairment. The report also states that lead is a strong neurotoxin that, even with low-level exposure, is linked to a reduction in IQ scores, short attention span, and possibly violent, or even criminal, behavior in the future.

The report also revealed that the largest number of children -- 275 million, under threat by lead poisoning is in India, with their blood lead levels reaching up to more than five micrograms for every deciliter. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that this level already requires action.

Children living near or at lead-acid battery recycling shops in India were found to have lead levels of up to 190 micrograms for each deciliter. This was according to Dr. Abbas Mahdi, the department of bio-chemistry head at the King George's Medical University in Uttar Pradesh.

"Our children are also exposed to other contamination like some spices and herbal medicines that have lead as a preservative and color enhancer," Dr. Mahdi told BBC.