Global Lead Program

Today, public exposures to lead come primarily from the informal production and recycling of used lead-aid batteries (including motorbike, car and truck batteries); lead in paint, dyes, cookware and other household products; and lead contamination in food.

Pure Earth has conducted more than 1,000 field assessments of sites contaminated with lead.  Our strategies have proven effective in addressing lead contamination. Our approach includes:

  • Rapid Environmental And Health Risk Assessments
  • Site Prioritization And Project Selection
  • Detailed Environmental And Health Risk Assessments
  • Conceptual Site Modeling
  • Alternative Remediation Analysis
  • Remediation

Download our Global Lead Program guide to see strategies and more project examples.

Recent Lead Projects

Kabwe, Zambia (2014-Present)

In May of 2017, the cover story of the newspaper The Guardian labeled the city of Kabwe, Zambia, “The World’s Most Toxic Town.” Kabwe is the second largest city in Zambia, with a population of more than 200,000 people. For more than 90 years, lead mining and smelting in Kabwe created extraordinary pollution in both industrial and residential areas. Today, concentrations of lead remain high and pose severe health risks to local children.

In 2014, Pure Earth conducted a comprehensive environmental assessment in Kabwe to understand where the lead hotspots were located within the community and to identify relevant exposure pathways. Based on that assessment, Pure Earth developed a plan to conduct targeted cleanup and risk-reduction activities, including blood-lead level testing and remediation of high-risk areas, starting with the most severely contaminated neighborhoods.

Since then, Pure Earth and its local partners have remediated 80 residential yards contaminated with lead in Kabwe. This project consisted of capping residential soils and public areas, cleaning the interiors of homes, a robust public education and awareness campaign, and project monitoring and evaluation activities. The purpose of these activities was to reduce blood-lead concentrations of local residents and train community members and government employees to replicate and implementing this type of project in the future.

Additional information about the project is available here.

Dong Mai, Vietnam (2013-2014)

Dong Mai Village, Vietnam, was the site of a severe lead poisoning epidemic caused by contamination from decades of recycling of used lead-acid batteries. In 2008, an industrial area was constructed 1 km south of Dong Mai, and most recycling activities were relocated from residential areas to the industrial estate. However, because lead is very immobile in the environment, surface lead levels in residential areas of central Dong Mai remained dangerously elevated from past recycling activities. In 2013 and 2014, Pure Earth and its partners capped contaminated soil at 39 residential properties and public spaces.

After the remediation activities were complete, Pure Earth conducted environmental sampling in all of the remediated yards and found lead levels at or below 50 ppm in all yards (8x below the U.S. EPA standard for residential soil). In addition to environmental sampling, blood-lead levels were collected and analyzed from a total of 263 children before and after the project. Blood-lead levels in children age 0-5 decreased by an average of 72%, from a geometric mean of 39 μg/dL to 11 μg/dL.

Additional information about the project is available here.


Recycling used lead-acid batteries: health considerations, WHO