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Dietary exposure to lead in the Netherlands

De inname van lood in Nederland via voedsel


Uptake from the soil is the main route by which lead ends up in food. Lead in soil has its origin in both natural and anthropogenic sources. The lead concentration in food has decreased over the last decennia by the use of unleaded petrol and paint, and the replacement of lead water pipes.

RIVM has assessed the intake of lead via food in the Netherlands. The calculated intakes showed that detrimental health effects cannot be excluded in a part of children up to age seven, pregnant women and adults. The number of persons actually at risk cannot be quantified. The food groups cereals, milk, fruit, non-alcoholic beverages (including tea and fruit juices) and vegetables contributed most to the total lead intake (about 70 percent).

The intake of too much lead may have a negative effect on brain development (quantified as the loss of one IQ point) in children up to age seven, as well as in the developing foetus via lead ingestion of the mother. In adults, the negative effects of a high lead intake are on the kidney. Too much lead can also result in negative effects on blood pressure, but that risk is very low at all calculated intakes via food.

The intake calculations were performed with the most recent information on lead concentrations in food combined with food consumption data from Dutch food consumption surveys, and calculated with a calculation model with which currently the best intake estimations can be obtained. Data on lead concentrations in some food products were limited. Therefore, concentration data from other European countries were also used. Additionally, lead concentrations in certain food products, including milk (products) and bread, were so low that they were difficult to quantify.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has evaluated at which intake level of lead no detrimental health effects occur. This evaluation was used to determine if the lead intake results in possible health risks.


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