EC scientific committee to review blood lead limits for children

Denmark has not provided sufficient evidence to support its plan for a ban on lead products, says an EC scientific committee. The committee does agree, however, that recent studies suggest the World Health Organisation's (WHO) permitted tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) may not be stringent enough to protect young children.

The EC Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE) has published its opinion on Denmark’s plan to ban lead products and their use. It has supported the objections raised by 12 EU members states and the EC, and concluded that: “the Danish Authorities have [not] provided sound scientific evidence to demonstrate that the introduction of a general ban on the use of lead products would result in a significant additional reduction in the body burdens of lead of the general population”.

Instead of a general ban the CSTEE recommends that Denmark identify areas where lead exposure is particularly high and take action. The committee acknowledges that some instances of lead exposure come from imported products, such as lead shot.

Despite its opinion against a general ban on lead products’ use in Denmark, CSTEE is concerned that WHO limits for lead exposure may be too high. The PTWI set by WHO is 100µ/l.

Citing studies undertaken in the 1990s, CSTEE says that “cognitive and sensory motor deficits have been shown in children to be associated with blood lead levels as low as 100-150µ/l …[and] that these and more recent data indicate that even below 100µ/l effects might occur and that no clear threshold for effects has been identified”.

CSTEE urges EU member states to study total exposure and uptake of lead in young children and it argues that “based on recent health effect studies, whether the present lead WHO-PTWI provides full health protection for vulnerable groups may be questionable”. The committee plans to review the issue and publish its opinion.

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