Lead Poisoning: Understanding The Problem
Lead Poisoning Affects 1 in 3 Children
As many as one third of the world’s children, about 800 million globally, have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the level at which requires action.
This was the finding of The Toxic Truth report from UNICEF and Pure Earth, which sounded the alarm on global childhood lead poisoning, and prompted an urgent call to action to protect children from lead exposure.
Sources of Lead Poisoning Exposure
Understanding the Impact of Lead Poisoning
Lead Poisoning: Health Impact
Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurological, hematological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and renal systems.
Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning due to their smaller size and higher rates of lead absorption. Lead poisoning has been associated with:
- brain damage, reduced IQ, decreased intelligence
- learning difficulties
- lower lifetime earnings
- increased incidence of heart and kidney disease later in life
- increased tendency for violence
In adults, lead exposure causes a significant burden of disease as well. In 2019, at least 900,000 premature deaths globally, or 1.6% of all deaths, were attributable to lead poisoning—a similar number to deaths caused by HIV/AIDs.
In pregnant women, lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.
Lead Poisoning: Economic Impact
From an economic standpoint, childhood lead exposure and the resultant intelligence degradation costs the global economy more than $1 trillion dollars in GDP annually (2020 dollars).
Implementing Solutions to Lead Poisoning
Pure Earth’s proven 5-phase approach to solve global childhood lead poisoning was developed from experience gained from conducting over 50 projects to mitigate lead exposures in a range of low and middle-income countries.
Pure Earth’s 5-Phase Solution to Lead Poisoning
1. HEALTH SURVEILLANCE
Conduct baseline BLL (blood lead level) testing and analysis to understand prevalence, severity and location of 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.
Disseminate findings to inform and build support with governments and funders for action.
5. COUNTRY-LED IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY
Support the implementation of strategies and programmatic approaches within Ministry operations.
Pure Earth is working to address lead poisoning in these focal countries under the Global Lead Program: Bangladesh, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Georgia and Ghana.
Priority countries on a “watch list” due to high levels of lead poisoning are Zambia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Pakistan, and Nigeria. These remain a priority for program expansion if and when additional resources are secured.
Pure Earth Is A Global Leader In Addressing Lead Poisoning, Reducing Children’s Exposures
Pure Earth has been acknowledged as a leading organization addressing global childhood lead poisoning. 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.
Republic of Georgia: Why do 41% of children in the country have elevated blood lead levels? See how Pure Earth helped to unraveled the mystery.
Senegal: See how one community emerged out of a deadly lead rush.