By: Anis Hambasic

Effects of Lead on the environment

Populations of micro-organisms may be wiped out at soil lead concentrations of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) or more, slowing the rate of decomposition of matter. Populations of plants, micro-organisms and invertebrates may be affected by lead concentrations of 500 to 1,000 ppm, allowing more lead-tolerant populations of the same or different species to take their place. This will change the type of ecosystem present. At all ambient atmospheric concentrations of lead, the addition of lead to vegetation and animal surfaces can prevent the normal biochemical process that purifies and re purifies the calcium pool in grazing animals and decomposer organisms (UNEP 1991).

Exposure of Lead to Workers

"OSHA estimates that approximately 804,000 workers in general industry and an additional 838,000 workers in construction are potentially exposed to lead. Workers are exposed to lead as a result of the production, use, maintenance, recycling, and disposal of lead material and products. Lead exposure occurs in most industry sectors including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, remediation and even recreation."

Images of Lead

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Effects of Lead on the Earth

Lead released into the environment makes its way into the air, soils, and water. Lead can remain in the environment as dust indefinitely. The lead in fuels contribute to air pollution, especially in urban areas. Soils near highways, freeways, and smelting facilities have higher levels of lead than soils in other areas because of their exposure to lead dust, which accumulates over time. Plants exposed to lead can absorb the metal dust through their leaves. Plants can also take up minimal amounts of lead from the soil. Other ways lead can enter the environment are through mining practices, steel industry, crop enhancers, improperly disposed of batteries, or improperly stored metal parts such as machinery that can break and leave pieces or shavings which may leech into the environment. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the State of Michigan is a high-risk state for lead hazards.

Recycling Lead

As a result, over half of the lead produced and used each year throughout the world has been used before in other products. What is more, because lead is a naturally occurring element, the quality of the recycled lead is identical to that of primary metal from mining.