The Hidden Poison- Lead

As the world continues to develop and industrialize, the concerns of environmental pollution persist. San Pedro, still relatively undeveloped, has not escaped this problem. In the last decade, solid and liquid wastes have become increasingly evident on this island. To examine this problem, Green Reef is currently conducting a pollution assessment of the island, evaluating sources that potentially affect the health of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Of particular concern, is the presence of lead_not only can this metal cause environmental damage, it can also have adverse effects on the health of humans.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, lead has been ranked as the number one priority hazardous substance. This high ranking is probably due to the fact that lead is found in so many common household sources, such as leaded paint, gasoline, dust, soil, food, and water. In San Pedro, for instance, one of the primary sources of lead can be found in the batteries of cars and golf carts.

Most often, lead is introduced into the environment through the air and soil. Lead particles can be deposited into the environment from flaking lead paint, motor vehicles using leaded gas, or through inappropriate waste disposal. It is not uncommon, for example, to see a golf cart battery sitting along the bank of the lagoon or being used as fill for residential development. What many may not realize, is that lead tends to seep into the soil and eventually into the water column. Lead can also be introduced into the water system when lead-bearing soil particles run off the surface during heavy rains. Eventually, it is inevitable that humans will come into contact with this harmful substance.

So what effect does lead have on the health of humans? When introduced into the body, lead is not metabolized but directly absorbed into the blood, soft tissue, or bones. The adverse health effects of lead poisoning are varied, and include impaired mental and physical development. Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between lead levels and lead concentration in dust and soil. Preschool-age children and fetuses are usually the most vulnerable segments of the population for exposure to lead. Among children, those in the 2-3 year-old age bracket may be most at risk for exposure to lead-contaminated soil.

In an effort to do something about this problem, a group of locals have decided that there is a need for a consistent system of dealing with at least one of the sources of lead on the island: vehicular batteries. During the week of October 4th - 8th, the first quarterly San Pedro Battery Round-Up will be held. Everyone is invited to discard their used golf cart, car, and truck batteries at The Boatyard, at which time they will be taken to the mainland and recycled. Green Reef would like to thank The Boatyard, Captain Shark's, Krystal Shipping, Renco Batteries, and Precision Marine for assisting in this conservation effort.

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