Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that can cause serious damage to human health.
It is present in the environment at low concentrations due to natural sources and anthropogenic sources such as industrial pollution and consumer products. As a result of its presence in the environment, people are exposed to it and in some cases to levels that are hazardous to health.
Hair analysis can be used to measure lead exposure over a period of several months, as hair incorporates heavy metals into its structure as it is synthesised in the scalp.
What are the health risks of lead exposure?
Lead has no function in the body and can cause a number of health problems such as central nervous system disorders, anaemia and damage to the reproductive system. In children, lead exposure can have a much more serious impact on their cognitive and neurobehavioural development. Lead poisoning is the consequence of lead poisoning.
As lead is very slowly eliminated from the body, it is important to measure the level of exposure to lead in order to better prevent its health effects.
How do people get exposed to lead?
Chronic exposure to lead occurs mainly through inhalation of polluted air or ingestion of contaminated food or water.
Polluted housing is an important factor in lead exposure. Indeed, lead was used in paints until 1949. Thus, dwellings built before 1949 may have lead pollution and in this case the occupants are exposed to it on a daily basis.
Soil pollution by lead is also a factor of exposure for the population
Drinking water is regularly checked by the health authorities for the presence of lead. Health values are used to assess the health risks for consumers. The presence of lead pipes in a building can lead to water pollution and exposure of the occupants.
Certain foods such as fatty fish (tuna, salmon, etc.) may contain significant amounts of lead. In addition, fruits and vegetables grown on lead-contaminated soils may contain significant amounts of lead.
Finally, disasters such as the Notre-Dame de Paris fire can pollute very large areas for a long time through the deposition of smoke.
Why does hair analysis measure lead exposure?
Hair analysis is an effective way to measure lead exposure. Hair is a reliable indicator of long-term lead exposure because it binds heavy metals in its structure. Hair grows on average 1 centimetre per month and analysis of a 3-centimetre strand of hair can be used to assess exposure over the last 3 months. The accuracy of this method depends on the quality of the analytical method used and the ability of the laboratory to deal with interference and analytical errors.
It is important to note that hair must be collected correctly to obtain accurate results. The hair should be cut at the root to avoid external contamination and should be washed before collection to remove external contaminants.
How are the results of a hair lead analysis interpreted?
Health reference values exist for the measurement of lead in blood (blood lead).
There is no health reference value for lead in hair. However, measurements of lead in hair have been carried out for several decades and statistical reference values have been established. They allow people to know whether their exposure to lead is considered low, moderate, high or very high.
In conclusion, hair analysis is an effective way of measuring lead exposure. Hair retains heavy metals in its structure, making it a reliable indicator of medium and long-term lead exposure. Using this method can help prevent potential health damage from lead exposure. However, it is important to note that the hair must be collected properly to obtain accurate results and to use a laboratory that can handle this type of analysis to obtain reliable results.