Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Tracking a Silent Killer in Rural Bangladesh

Published: Monday, January 06, 2014
Last Updated: Monday, January 06, 2014
Bookmark and Share
An interdisciplinary team of Stanford researchers seek to understand why lead contamination persists in one of the poorest corners of the world, and how to stop its spread.

It's been decades since the U.S. phased out the use of lead in gasoline, paint, pipes and other products because of the metal's insidious health effects. Although lead from previous years' exhaust still persists in soil and dust, Americans have largely rid themselves of the toxin, linked to symptoms ranging from anemia and hearing loss to heart disease and mental retardation. In other parts of the world, however, the specter of lead poisoning still hovers.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers supported by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment's Environmental Venture Projects (EVP) seed-grant program is challenging conventional wisdom about why lead contamination lingers in one of the poorest corners of the world. Their work could lead to more rapid testing for contamination, greater public awareness and decisive regulatory action.

In some areas of Bangladesh, as many as half of the residents have high levels of lead in their blood. "If you had children or pregnant women in the U.S. with these levels, there would be an uproar," said Stephen Luby, a Stanford professor of medicine and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

With his fellow project investigators, Luby is searching for the dangerous metal's pathways to people and ways to disrupt the status quo.

Decades of research
Luby first started thinking about lead in the developing world when he conducted a study in Pakistan during the early 1990s. The results showed high levels of lead in children's blood, likely a result of the country's continued use of leaded fuel.

After Pakistan banned leaded gas, due in part to the study's influence, Luby shifted his focus to nearby Bangladesh. He came across studies showing lead contamination in the land of two rural areas. "That struck me as odd," Luby recalls. There were few roads and almost no vehicles spewing leaded gas exhaust in the areas. Based on the evidence of higher lead levels in farm land compared with levels in nearby homes, Luby speculated that the contamination was coming from an agricultural product, possibly pesticide, and being absorbed by plants.

A similar story played out in the U.S. apple industry during the late 19th century and early 20th century when the use of lead arsenate pesticides contributed to the contamination of thousands of acres and sickened many field workers.

When he floated his hypothesis to other experts in the field, Luby was met with skepticism. Responding to an email from Luby, one wrote that he was "perplexed" by the idea, while another scientist wrote he "would be very surprised" if Luby's theory proved correct. "They thought I was crazy," Luby said. "It was pretty direct and troubling because it came from people who have been in Bangladesh a long time."

Despite the doubts, Luby pushed on. With colleagues, he collected hundreds of blood samples from residents of agricultural areas. Luby didn't have the funding, however, to test the samples for lead, carry out surveys and do other related work. "Then EVP came along," Luby said. With the program's support, Luby and his fellow project investigators, Assistant Professor of Economics Pascaline Dupas and Woods senior fellows Scott Fendorf (Earth sciences) and Roz Naylor (Earth sciences, FSI), plan to look for lead in blood and soil samples, examine evidence of past contamination and develop ways to test pesticides for the dangerous metal.

Interdisciplinary team of researchers
Naylor's interest in the project was driven by a desire to learn more about Bangladesh's agriculture sector, and how the use of lead-based pesticides potentially acts as a barrier to escaping poverty. "How can a country hope to alleviate rural poverty if people in those areas are cognitively impaired (from lead poisoning)?" Naylor said.

Fendorf, a soil scientist, will focus on how to find lead in soils and how to analyze it. Naylor, an agricultural economist and director of the Center for Food Security and the Environment, will examine market mechanisms for use and overuse of pesticides, among other analyses. Dupas, a developmental economist and center fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy

 Research, will explore behaviors around pesticide use and how to change them. "They will frame issues and ask questions in ways that I wouldn't know to do," Luby said of his colleagues on the project.

Initial testing of samples has confirmed high levels of lead among residents of rural Bangladesh who have very little access to motor vehicles.

Luby hopes that once the pathway of lead contamination is confirmed, future lead identification data in Bangladesh will be published by watchdog groups and garner widespread attention. "We are set up to be able to demonstrate how these rural residents become exposed to such high levels of lead," Luby said. He acknowledges, however, that it may require more to get the attention of powerful decision makers. "If rice for city people is also contaminated, we will have the attention of the political class."


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Women’s Immune System Genes Operate Differently from Men’s
A new technology reveals that immune system genes switch on and off differently in women and men, and the source of that variation is not primarily in the DNA.
Friday, July 31, 2015
HIV Susceptibility Linked to Little-Understood Immune Cell Class
High levels of diversity among immune cells called natural killer cells may strongly predispose people to infection by HIV, and may be driven by prior viral exposures, according to a new study.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Long-sought Discovery Fills in Missing Details of Cell 'Switchboard'
A biomedical breakthrough reveals never-before-seen details of the human body’s cellular switchboard that regulates sensory and hormonal responses.
Monday, July 27, 2015
DNA Damage Seen in Patients Undergoing CT Scanning
Along with the burgeoning use of advanced medical imaging tests over the past decade have come rising public health concerns about possible links between low-dose radiation and cancer.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Tiny Spheres Of Human Cells Mimic The Brain
Researchers have figured out how to create spheres of neuronal cells resembling the cerebral cortex, making functional human brain tissue available for the first time to study neuropsychiatric diseases such as autism and schizophrenia.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Genetic Signature Enables Early, Accurate Sepsis Diagnosis
Systemic inflammation after injuries or surgery can dramatically alter the activity of thousands of genes, but a new study shows that changes in just 11 of them are enough to detect the presence or absence of accompanying infection.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Existing Drug May Treat Deadliest Childhood Brain Tumor
For the first time, scientists have identified an existing drug that slows the growth of the deadliest childhood brain tumor.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Foreign Antibodies Mobilize Immune System to Fight Cancer
A mouse’s T cells can be primed to attack and eliminate a malignant tumor by injecting antibodies from another mouse with resistance to the tumor, as well as by activating certain signaling cells, a study has found.
Thursday, May 07, 2015
Solving The Mystery Of The Dancing Droplets
Years of research satisfy a graduate student's curiosity about the molecular minuet he observed among drops of ordinary food coloring.
Friday, March 13, 2015
A Protein's Novel Role In Several Types Of Cancers Discovered
Stanford ChEM-H scientists are helping to develop a novel cancer therapy based on a new finding of a protein that inadvertently promotes cancer growth.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Tiny Fish Makes Big Splash In Aging Research At Stanford
Researchers disabled aging-associated genes in the short-lived African killifish, including one for an enzyme called telomerase, whose absence caused humanlike disease in the animal.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Telomere Extension Turns Back Aging Clock In Cultured Cells
Researchers delivered a modified RNA that encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cells. Cell proliferation capacity was dramatically increased, yielding large numbers of cells for study.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Stanford Chemists Take Step Toward Solving Mystery of How Enzymes Work
Steven Boxer and his students have found that the electrostatic field within an enzyme accounts for the lion's share of its success.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Stem Cells Faulty In Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
In a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, muscle stem cells express connective-tissue genes associated with fibrosis and muscle weakness, according to a new study.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Big Data Helps Pinpoint Possible New Stent Drug
Replacing the current drug used to coat artery-opening stents with a drug more targeted to the actual cause of stent disease could reduce blood clots and heart attacks.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Scientific News
Study Finds Brain Chemicals that Keep Wakefulness in Check
Researchers to develop new drugs that promote better sleep, or control hyperactivity in people with mania.
Sorting Through Cellular Statistics
Aaron Dinner, professor in chemistry, and his graduate student Herman Gudjonson are trying to read the manual of life, DNA, as part of the Dinner group’s research into bioinformatics—the application of statistics to biological research.
Playing 'Tag' with Pollution lets Scientists See Who's It
Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot from different global regions and can track where it lands on the Tibetan Plateau, researchers have determined which areas around the plateau contribute the most soot — and where.
Women’s Immune System Genes Operate Differently from Men’s
A new technology reveals that immune system genes switch on and off differently in women and men, and the source of that variation is not primarily in the DNA.
Long Telomeres Associated with Increased Lung Cancer Risk
Genetic predisposition for long telomeres predicts increased lung adenocarcinoma risk.
First Artificial Ribosome Designed
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins and enzymes within the cell.
High-Resolution 3D Images Reveal the Muscle Mitochondrial Power Grid
NIH mouse study overturns scientific ideas on energy distribution in muscle.
Expanding the Brain
A team of researchers has identified more than 40 new “imprinted” genes, in which either the maternal or paternal copy of a gene is expressed while the other is silenced.
Identifying a Key Growth Factor in Cell Proliferation
Researchers discover that aspartate is a limiter of cell proliferation.
Study Uncovers Target for Preventing Huntington’s Disease
Scientists from Cardiff University believe that a treatment to prevent or delay the symptoms of Huntington’s disease could now be much closer, following a major breakthrough.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!