Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

Pure Earth is a global leader in reducing children’s exposures to lead.  Over the past 15 years, it has assessed thousands of contaminated sites, published groundbreaking research, and demonstrated solutions in more than 50 affected communities. Most recently Pure Earth and UNICEF released a groundbreaking report, The Toxic Truth, revealing for the first time that 1 in 3 children around the world are lead poisoned and outlined evidenced-based solutions. Now is the time to put these proven solutions to work and scale up.

In 2021, Pure Earth was acknowledged as the largest organization addressing the global childhood lead poisoning crisis, and our Global Lead Program received critical praise.

In their Global Lead Exposure report, think tank Rethink Priorities evaluated the impact of Pure Earth’s work and confirmed the effectiveness of our approach and programs.

If one wanted to fund direct lead exposure work this year, we would recommend Pure Earth. They appear to be the only organization that both specializes primarily in reducing lead exposure and takes a comprehensive approach to the issue. - Global Lead Exposure report, Rethink priorities, May 2021

GiveWell, one of the country’s leading results-oriented philanthropy organizations, recommended support for Pure Earth’s work on reducing lead exposure in low- and middle-income countries.

Protecting Every Child’s Potential Initiative

Launched in 2020, the Protecting Every Child’s Potential initiative is a public private partnership that works to raise awareness of the impact of lead exposure on children’s long-term health and development and mobilize action to abolish dangerous practices that cause harmful lead exposure. Around 1 in 3 children – up to 800 million globally – have blood lead levels indicative of lead poisoning. Informal and substandard recycling of lead-acid batteries is a leading contributor to exposure in areas where children play, live and go to school in low and middle-income countries.

With the scope and scale of this crisis in mind, Pure Earth, UNICEF, and the Clarios Foundation partnered to form the Protecting Every Child’s Potential initiative. We believe that children deserve a future free from lead exposure. By combining the expertise of the public and private sectors and civil society, we are working toward that reality.

Rapid Marketplace Screenings in 25 Countries

In 2021, Pure Earth launched an ambitious project, supported by the grant from GiveWell, to conduct regional Rapid Marketplace Screenings (RMS) for lead in 25 countries. Using a protocol that allows quick collection of data, Pure Earth will deploy global teams to investigate markets worldwide. They will sample items ranging from spices to medicines, cosmetics, toys, ceramics, aluminum cookware, paints, sweets and other items. The data collected will help governments protect their citizens by keeping pollution out of homes and kitchens.

The 25 countries include Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Egypt, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Indonesia.

90% of children with high lead
levels are in low-
and middle-income
countries.

Lead in cookware
and spices.
Informal recycling
of car batteries
Understanding the Problem

Mass Lead Poisoning of Children

Around the world, from villages in Central Java, Indonesia, to pottery studios in Morales, Mexico, hundreds of millions of children are being poisoned every day by lead. Unwittingly and with life-altering consequences, these children are growing up in harm’s way, ingesting and inhaling dust from informal used lead-acid battery recycling operations, eating lead-infused spices and food contaminated by pottery with leaded glazes, living in homes with peeling lead paint, and working alongside their parents to salvage lead and other heavy metals from e-waste.


Explainer: What is informal ULAB recycling?

The impact of lead exposure on children is particularly devastating, causing

  • increased incidence of heart and kidney disease
  • reduced intelligence
  • lower educational attainment
  • lower lifetime earnings
  • increased tendency for violence

From an economic standpoint, childhood lead exposure and the resultant intelligence degradation costs the global economy more than one trillion of dollars in GDP annually (2020 dollars). In their seminal study published in 2013, Teresa M. Attina and Leonard Trasande extracted data from 68 articles published from 2000-2012 to calculate that childhood lead exposure would cost lower- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, and the Latin Americas and Caribbean almost $977 billion in annual GDP losses (1.1 trillion in 2020 dollars).

Pure Earth estimates that there may be over 12 million substandard or informal ULAB recyclers who are poisoning themselves, their children and their communities.

Implementing Solutions

Cleaning up lead pollution, protecting school children in Karlmalichak, India.
Video credit: Thomas Cristofoletti/USAID

With experience gained from conducting over 50 projects to mitigate lead exposures in a range of low and middle-income countries, we have developed a 5-phase approach to solve this problem:

Pure Earth’s 5-Phase Solution

1. Blood Testing

Conduct baseline BLL (blood lead level) testing and analysis to understand geographic and demographic variations in exposure.

2. Source Analyses

Conduct a series of source analyses to determine the most significant sources of exposure.

3. Source-specific Interventions

Design and implement interventions to reduce the use and/or release of lead in products and industrial processes.

4. Communications and Public Awareness

Develop campaigns to educate and build support with government, private sector, NGOs and community members.

5. Country-Led Sustainable Solutions

Support the implementation of strategies and programmatic approaches within Ministry operations.

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Our project teams have carried out projects to reduce contamination in whole villages (Vietnam, Philippines, and others), in specific toxic hotspots, usually associated with substandard or informal lead-acid battery recycling (Indonesia, Senegal, Kenya, Uruguay, Bangladesh, and more), and at a national level where exposures are broad, usually from lead in pottery (Mexico and others). Projects to mitigate lead exposures have been successful at reducing blood lead levels with typical reductions at 60-70% within one year of an intervention.

Key Health Impacts

Lead exposure causes a significant burden of disease for adults as well: the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has estimated that in 2017, lead exposure accounted for 1.06 million deaths and 24.4 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs*) due to long-term effects on health. Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurological, hematological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and renal systems.

WATCH NOW:

Dr. Howard Hu explains the latest related to the science surrounding lead exposures:
“Assessing and Addressing Lead Exposure in Low- and Middle-Income Countries”

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR PROJECT WORK

INDIA

275 million children under age 14 have elevated blood lead levels.

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275M

MEXICO

13 million children under age 14 have elevated blood lead levels.

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13M

Bangladesh

35 million children under age 14 have elevated blood lead levels.

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35M

Vietnam

23 million children under age 14 have elevated blood lead levels.

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23M

Kabwe, Zambia

100% of the 90,000 children under age 14 have elevated blood lead levels.

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90K

Indonesia

36 million children under age 14 have elevated blood levels.

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36M

Philippines

20 million children in the Philippines have elevated blood lead levels.

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20M

Ghana

Estimates on lead exposures pending additional research.

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Georgia

41% of children under age 8 have elevated blood lead levels.

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41%