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Question:
Can you solve a debate about lead? Is it possible to get lead poisoning from the fumes of zhigulis burning leaded fuel? For example, if one were biking or running in the city center, would one injest any more lead than someone walking on the street? Overall, lead is everywhere in Moscow - water, paint, gasoline. Is there a higher instance of lead poisoning here than in the US?
PB 
Answer:
Lead is a common element. (It is not toxic in levels found naturally; it was only the addition of lead salts to paints as coloring agents and stabilizers that caused the largest epidemic of lead poisoning in history, that of childhood lead poisoning). The environmental risk in the absence of such obvious causes such as flaking or sanding lead-based paint in the child's home environment (an in older houses with painted corrugated iron roofs, where if the paint is lead-based lead can leach into water collected for drinking) is difficult to assess without checking the child's blood lead levels. In Moscow as in many cities the likelihood of lead poisoning from environmental exposure - other than that from vehicle exhausts - is less than that in many other countries because few people rely on the (possibly contaminated) ground water supply for drinking, mostly using bottled water instead, and because of the architectural styles and habits current locally - (usually) not using lead based paints - (usually) not power-sanding walls - not carrying out renovations while still living in the house - (usually) buying safe (new) nursery furniture - having tiled rather than painted corrugated iron roofs on houses The likelihood of exposure to car exhaust fumes causing clinically significant lead poisoning in inhabitants of Moscow is overall lower than may be feared. On the one hand there is no doubt (from studies of traffic policemen, most recently in Thailand) that appreciable and clinically significant lead levels can be found in adults exposed to pollution from motor vehicle exhausts for 8 or more hours a day (this is also likely to be the case in the children, teenagers and adults seen selling items at traffic lights around Moscow). On the other hand, there is a wide difference in exposure between such cases and those of an adult or child who lives in a relatively lead-free environment and spends 1 hour a day in traffic in an air-conditioned car, commuting to and from school or work. Any measurement of the actual lead level in air would therefore not be relevant to assessing an individual's risk of lead poisoning.
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