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Lead Poisoning: The Public Health Risks

Tuakuila, Lison, Mbuyi, Haufroid, and Hoet (2013) sought to understand the effects of industrial processes and environmental exposures to human health through a study titled, “Elevated blood lead levels and sources of exposure in the population of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Their study has strong public health significance because it draws our attention to the public health risks caused by lead poisoning. Its findings are instrumental in creating a public health policy to govern economic and cultural activities that predispose local populations to lead poisoning.

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The details highlighted by Tuakuila et al. (2013), in their study, only have a local significance. The researchers mainly focus on investigating lead exposure in the urban population of Kinshasa. Furthermore, the paper’s data collection techniques are subject to the cultural and social practices of urban dwellers in Kinshasa. For example, the study found out that pregnant women exposed their unborn children to lead poisoning by eating fired clay. This cultural practice is unique to Kinshasa and the community sampled. It does not represent the cultural practices of pregnant women in the global community. Therefore, the study is mostly of local significance.

I do not believe that the study filled an important research gap because it focused on a declining health issue. Lead poisoning incidents are declining because many developing economies use unleaded gasoline and are increasingly aware about the potential of lead pollution from industrial processes (World Health Organization, 2015). Soon, this public health issue will have diminished importance. Furthermore, lead exposure from the consumption of fired clay would decline because there would be less environmental exposure to the harmful chemical when governments take stringent measures to minimize its circulation (World Health Organization, 2015).

Based on the lack of reliable national data to describe Kinshasa’s urban population, Tuakuila et al. (2013) chose to use the random sampling technique by sampling the views of a selected section of the population, drawn from different administrative regions. This data collection technique was unique because it used political metrics to classify the population into different categories. The researchers should have used population density, or a health-related metric, to collect data. In an unrelated analytic sphere, using statistical analyses aligned with the use of laboratory techniques to collect data because both of them were quantitative assessments of the research information. Using these techniques helped the authors to know safe and unsafe lead levels. Assessing the levels of lead contamination by taking samples from the air, soil and fired clay (consumed by pregnant women) was also a comprehensive assessment of the main channels of lead exposure for the urban residents of Kinshasa. These attributes highlighted positive aspects of the research methodology. Without a reliable population register in Kinshasa, I would not complicate the data collection process by using a systematic sampling approach because it has a lot of bias. Instead, I would categorize the urban center into different zones and randomly sample the respondents. Furthermore, I would increase the sample size because recruiting only 30 people from each administrative entity was insufficient in covering the geographic region well. For example, some families could have up to ten people. Based on this dynamic, I would increase the number of respondents to 100 people in each urban zone. This step would improve the study’s reliability and validity.

Tuakuila et al. (2013) found out that most men had a higher volume of lead in their blood system, as opposed to women (the level of lead among men was 13% higher than in women). Past surveys have shown the same disparity. I believe that this difference occurs because of the economic and social practices of men and women in African cultures. Most families still depend on men as the breadwinners. Therefore, they work in factories and increase their exposure to lead, while the women stay in their houses, taking care of the children (minimal risk exposures). In fact, besides eating fired clay, women’s exposure to lead is low. Comparatively, many men work in blue-collar jobs that expose them to lead poisoning. This is why the researchers found a higher quantity of lead among men, compared to women.

Tuakuila et al. (2013) highlight the unsafe levels of lead among residents of Kinshasa. They also argue that these high levels of lead have a negative impact on the health of Kinshasa residents (Tuakuila et al., 2013). Based on these findings alone, the government should take steps to lower the lead exposure levels of Kinshasa residents by making proactive policy interventions to control economic and cultural activities in the region. For example, they may choose to undertake public health campaigns to sensitize pregnant women about the risks of consuming fired soil. Similarly, they may increase employee safety (formulation of stringent rules) for workers who earn a living working in factories that use lead as a production factor.


Tuakuila, J., Lison, D., Mbuyi, F., Haufroid, V., & Hoet, P. (2013). Elevated blood lead levels and sources of exposure in the population of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, 23(1), 81–77.

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World Health Organization. (2015). Issues of Lead Poisoning and Developing Countries. Web.

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