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December 13, 2004 - Cataracts & Lead Exposure

Cataract development appears to increase with exposure to lead paint and lead drinking water pipes over a lifetime. According to a report lead by Debra Schaumberg of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, cataracts account fo more than 40% of blindness worldwide.

"This research suggests that reduction of lead exposure throughout a man's lifetime should help reduce his chances of developing cataracts and of requiring cataract surgery," said Schaumberg.

"By preventing or delaying the onset of this condition, many instances of blindness worldwide could be prevented," she added.

Her study, published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., looked at data from 795 U.S. men age 60 and older for whom bone lead levels were measured between 1991 and 1999.

Schaumberg and colleagues found that those with the highest levels of lead exposure had more than 2 1/2 times the risk of developing cataracts compared with those with the lowest levels.

"Lead exposure continues to pose a significant public health problem," she said. 

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