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

Join For Free

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 3,100+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,500+ 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

$10M Grant Funds Infection-Focused Center
The new center will explore intracellular and intercellular processes by which salmonella bacteria, responsible for more than 100 million symptomatic infections annually, infect immune cells.
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Resurrecting an Abandoned Drug
Previously discarded drug shows promise in helping human cells in a lab dish fight off two different viruses.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Fracking's Impact on Drinking Water Sources
A case study of a small Wyoming town reveals that practices common in the fracking industry may have widespread impacts on drinking water resources.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Imaging Cells and Tissues Under the Skin
First technique developed for viewing cells and tissues in three dimensions under the skin.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Glucose-Guzzling Immune Cells May Drive Coronary Artery Disease
Researchers at Stanford University have found excessive glucose uptake by inflammatory immune cells called macrophages, which reside in arterial plaques, may be behind coronary artery disease.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Ultra-Sensitive Test for Cancers, HIV
Test developed that is thousands of times more sensitive than current diagnostics.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Weighing up the Risk of Groundwater Contamination
Faulty, shallow wells can leak oil and natural gas into underground drinking-water supplies, Stanford Professor Rob Jackson finds.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Blood Test Could Transform TB Diagnosis
A simple blood test that can accurately diagnose active tuberculosis could make it easier and cheaper to control a disease that kills 1.5 million people every year.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Paper Published Based on RNA Game
Video-gamers have co-authored a paper describing a new set of rules for determining the difficulty of designing structures composed of RNA molecules.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Marker Identifies Most Basic Form of Blood Stem Cell
Nearly 30 years after the discovery of the hematopoietic stem cell, Stanford researchers have found a marker that allows them to study the version of these stem cells that continues to replicate.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Flexible Gene Expression May Regulate Social Status
Scientists show how the selective expression of genes through epigenetics can regulate the social status of African cichlid fish.
Monday, January 11, 2016
World Forest Carbon Stocks Overestimated
Researchers with The Natural Capital Project show how fragmentation harms forests' ability to store carbon; more restoration is needed to reconnect forest patches.
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
U.S. Needs a New Approach for Governance of Risky Research
The United States needs better oversight of risky biological research to reduce the likelihood of a bioengineered super virus escaping from the lab or being deliberately unleashed, according three Stanford scholars.
Monday, January 04, 2016
Mapping the Mechanical Properties of Living Cells
Researchers have developed a new way to use atomic force microscopy to rapidly measure the mechanical properties of cells at the nanometer scale, an advance that could pave the way for better understanding immune disorders and cancer.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Viral Infections Leave a Signature on the Immune System
A test that queries the body’s own cells can distinguish a viral infection from a bacterial infection and could help doctors know when to use antibiotics.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Scientific News
The Rise of 3D Cell Culture and in vitro Model Systems for Drug Discovery and Toxicology
An overview of the current technology and the challenges and benefits over 2D cell culture models plus some of the latest advances relating to human health research.
Grant Supports Project To Develop Simple Test To Screen For Cervical Cancer
UCLA Engineering announces funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Injecting New Life into Old Antibiotics
A new fully synthetic way to make a class of antibiotics called macrolides from simple building blocks is set to open up a new front in the fight against antimicrobial drug resistance.
Insight into Bacterial Resilience and Antibiotic Targets
Variant of CRISPR technology paired with computerized imaging reveals essential gene networks in bacteria.
Advancing Protein Visualization
Cryo-EM methods can determine structures of small proteins bound to potential drug candidates.
Alzheimer’s Protein Serves as Natural Antibiotic
Alzheimer's-associated amyloid plaques may be part of natural process to trap microbes, findings suggest new therapeutic strategies.
Slime Mold Reveals Clues to Immune Cells’ Directional Abilities
Study from UC San Diego identifies a protein involved in the directional ability of a slime mold.
How Do You Kill A Malaria Parasite?
Drexel University scientists have discovered an unusual mechanism for how two new antimalarial drugs operate: They give the parasite’s skin a boost in cholesterol, making it unable to traverse the narrow labyrinths of the human bloodstream. The drugs also seem to trick the parasite into reproducing prematurely.
Illuminating Hidden Gene Regulators
New super-resolution technique visualizes important role of short-lived enzyme clusters.
Supressing Intenstinal Analphylaxis in Peanut Allergy
Study from National Jewish Health shows that blockade of histamine receptors suppresses intestinal anaphylaxis in peanut allergy.
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
3,100+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,500+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!