Lead was brought into the spotlight in the 90's when its health effects were recognised resulting in its elimination from petrol. Inhalation exposure may be significant when Pb levels in the air are high. Elevated exposures are generally due to local sources rather than being the result of long‑range transport from remote sources. However, air pollution may contribute significantly to the Pb content of crops, through direct deposition. Although uptake via plant roots is relatively limited, rising Pb levels in soils over the long term are a matter for concern and should be addressed because of the possible health risks of low-level exposure to Pb (EEA, 2013). Lead is thought to have been responsible for a global crime wave in the 90's, the cost of which is unknown (Monbiot, 2013)(Casciani, 2014).
Lead is a neurotoxic metal that also accumulates in the body and damages organs, such as the kidneys, liver, brain, and nerves. Exposure to high levels of Pb causes serious brain damage, including mental retardation, behavioural disorders, memory problems and mood changes. Impairment of neuro-development in children is the most critical effect. Exposure in utero, during breastfeeding, or in early childhood may lead to such health problems. Lead accumulates in the skeleton which is potentially dangerous during pregnancy. Hence, previous exposure to a woman before she becomes pregnant is important in determining the health of her child (EEA, 2013).
Lead bio-accumulates and adversely impacts both terrestrial and aquatic systems. As with humans, the effects on animal life include reproductive problems and changes in appearance or behaviour (EEA, 2013).
Estimated cost in Euros of lead emissions from electricity production in 2013 across the EU22