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The aftermath from the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, which killed 22 people in California's Sonoma and Napa counties. The National Guard / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Andrew J. Whelton and Caitlin R. Proctor

In recent years wildfires have entered urban areas, causing breathtaking destruction.

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The Food and Drug Administration is now warning against more than 100 potentially dangerous hand sanitizers.
Antonio_Diaz / Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now warning against more than 100 potentially dangerous hand sanitizers.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A boy works among India's largest collection of electronic junk, which has been linked to high lead levels, on June 12, 2016 in New Delhi, India. Shams Qari / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

Childhood lead poisoning is a long-recognized health hazard that has severely negative consequences for the developing brain. A new first-of-its-kind study reveals that lead poisoning is a global problem, affecting far more children than previously thought. The researchers estimate that roughly 800 million children worldwide, or one out of three, suffer from lead poisoning, according to The New York Times.

Children with a blood lead level above 5 micrograms per deciliter need immediate treatment to prevent life-long consequences from the powerful neurotoxin. The report, The Toxic Truth: Children's exposure to lead pollution undermines a generation of potential, says that the bulk of affected children live in South Asia. India is one of the worst affected countries, where more than 275 million children have dangerously high lead levels in their blood, the BBC reported.

The study is a collaboration between UNICEF and Pure Earth, a nonprofit that seeks to help poor countries threatened by toxic pollutants.

"With few early symptoms, lead silently wreaks havoc on children's health and development, with possibly fatal consequences," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a UN statement. "Knowing how widespread lead pollution is – and understanding the destruction it causes to individual lives and communities – must inspire urgent action to protect children once and for all."

Childhood lead exposure has been linked to behavioral problems. It can also eventually lead to kidney damage and cardiovascular conditions, according to Agence-France Presse (AFP). Lead poisoning is estimated to cost low- and middle-income countries almost $1 trillion over children's lifetimes, AFP reported.

The study showed lead poisoning is a major problem in developing South Asian countries since environmental safeguards have not yet been put in place or are poorly enforced. That means that lead in dust and fumes from smelters, fires, car batteries, old peeling paint and water pipes, electronics junkyards, and even cosmetics and lead-infused spices pose an enormous risk to the mental and physical development of a generation of children, The New York Times reported.

"The unequivocal conclusion of this research is that children around the world are being poisoned by lead on a massive and previously unrecognized scale," the study found.

The study also discovered that nearly one million adults die prematurely every year because of lead exposure.

The report's authors say that vehicle batteries are the prime culprit of lead exposure. They based their findings on data from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which obtained blood test results from tens of thousands of children around the world, the BBC reported.

"Vehicles in low and middle-income countries have tripled since 2000 and that has led to a graphic rise in lead acid battery recycling, often in an unsafe way," Dr. Nicholas Rees, one of the report's authors, told the BBC.

The BBC reported that about 85 percent of the world's lead goes into producing lead-acid batteries, with the vast majority coming from recycled car batteries.

"As a result, as much as half of the used lead-acid batteries end up in the informal economy," the report found, according to the BBC. "Unregulated and often illegal recycling operations break open battery cases, spilling acid and lead dust onto the ground, and [there is] smelt lead in open-air furnaces that spew toxic fumes and dust that contaminate surrounding neighborhoods."

However, lead poisoning is rare in more developed countries, suggesting that the problem is solvable with decisive action.

"The good news is that lead can be recycled safely without exposing workers, their children and surrounding neighborhoods," said Richard Fuller, president of Pure Earth, the AFP reported. "People can be educated about the dangers of lead and empowered to protect themselves and their children."

He added that the economic and social returns in reducing lead pollution could be enormous.

"Improved health, increased productivity, higher IQs, less violence, and brighter futures for millions of children across the planet," said Fuller, according to the AFP.

German biotechnology company Biontech and U.S. drug giant Pfizer will begin the late-stage global study using up to 30,000 participants. Cravetiger / Getty Images

German biotechnology company Biontech and U.S. drugs giant Pfizer announced on Tuesday that they would start Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of their BNT162b2 vaccine after getting the go-ahead from regulators.

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The FDA recently recalled 77 hand sanitizers for containing dangerous levels of methanol. Jitchanamont Ukkarajarunphon / Getty Images

Hand sanitizers are everywhere these days — store counters, car cup holders and even belt loops — as people try to avoid coronavirus germs. The ubiquity of this hygiene staple is not without its problems though, and the concern keeps growing as the FDA recently recalled 77 hand sanitizers for containing dangerous levels of methanol, CBS News reported.

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COVID-19 has led to a boom in telehealth, with some health care facilities seeing an increase in its use by as much as 8,000%. Geber86 / Getty Images

By Jennifer A. Mallow

COVID-19 has led to a boom in telehealth, with some health care facilities seeing an increase in its use by as much as 8,000%.

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Middle school teacher Brittany Myers stands in protest in front of the Hillsborough County Schools District Office on July 16 in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones / Getty Images

By Michael Addonizio

Safely resuming in-person instruction at U.S. public schools is important for the academic, physical, emotional and social well-being of children and their families. It's also a key factor for the nation's economic recovery.

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Commuters arrive at Grand Central Station with Metro-North during morning rush hour on June 8, 2020 in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images

By Taison Bell

"Hospital Capacity Crosses Tipping Point in U.S. Coronavirus Hot Spots" – Wall Street Journal

This is a headline I hoped to not see again after the number of coronavirus infections had finally started to decline in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. However, the pandemic has now shifted to the South and the West – with Arizona, Florida, California and Texas as hot spots.

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These seven cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired the author's family. LightFieldStudios / Getty Images

By Zahida Sherman

Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.

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President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, left, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on March 6, 2020, in Atlanta. Official White House Photo / Shealah Craighead / Wikimedia Commons

By Jake Johnson

Public health experts are warning that coronavirus statistics will soon be newly vulnerable to political manipulation after the Trump administration ordered hospitals to send Covid-19 patient data directly to a Department of Health and Human Services system rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which usually receives the information and releases it to the public.

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The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, voiced support for safe reopening measures. www.vperemen.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA

By Kristen Fischer

It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.

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