Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

Lead poisoning is affecting children on a massive and previously unknown scale. Pure Earth implements solutions to lead pollution, and advocates for action to protect children, enabling them to reach their full potential.

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.

Learn more: 

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

Sources of Lead Exposure

Informal used lead-acid battery recycling
Informal used lead-acid battery recycling

Informal used lead-acid battery (ULAB) recycling is a major source of lead poisoning globally. 85% of the lead used today goes into lead acid batteries, and most of those batteries are made and sold in low-and middle-income countries.

Cookware and Lead-glazed pottery
Cookware and Lead-glazed pottery

Lead-glazed pottery crafted by traditional artisans are used to cook and serve food in restaurants and homes across Mexico and other countries.

Lead has also been found in aluminum pots from countries like India.

Spices and other foods
Spices and other foods

Contaminated spices and other foods routinely find their way into kitchens worldwide because of the global food supply chain.

In the Republic of Georgia, Pure Earth traced the source of poisoning for 41% of Georgian children to contaminated spices. A dye called lead chromate was being added to the spice to enhance color.

Consumer Reports released an alarming study that found high levels of toxic heavy metals in 126 brands of spices sold in U.S. supermarkets. 


Cosmetics like kohl eyeliners have been found contaminated with lead.

Understanding the Impact

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.

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

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


Conduct baseline BLL (blood lead level) testing and analysis to understand prevalence, severity and location of exposure.


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


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.


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


The focal countries in the Global Lead Program are 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.

Program Highlights

Realizing Children’s Full Potential by Ending Lead Poisoning
Realizing Children’s Full Potential by Ending Lead Poisoning

With support from Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Pure Earth will be strengthening expertise in national healthcare systems to prevent, identify, and treat lead poisoning in 5 priority countries: Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan and Peru.  Learn more

Rapid Market Screenings in 25 Countries
Rapid Market Screenings in 25 Countries

Rapid Market Screenings in 25 Countries

In 2021, Pure Earth launched an ambitious project, supported by the grant from GiveWell, to investigate markets worldwide for lead, sampling items ranging from spices to medicines, cosmetics, toys, ceramics, aluminum cookware, paints, sweets and more. The data collected will help governments protect their citizens by keeping pollution out of homes and kitchens.

Lead Poisoning and Prevention Week
Lead Poisoning and Prevention Week

Each October, Pure Earth organizes a series of events around the world to mark International Lead Poisoning and Prevention Week (ILPPW). The momentum generated reflect the gains made in our efforts to raise awareness and support for addressing lead poisoning. ILPPW events include a rally in Bangladesh featuring hundreds of young students and other activists forming a human chain, a social media campaign that reached millions of Indians, and the formation of Pure Earth school clubs in Ghana. Learn more about our 2021 and 2022 ILPPW events.

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.

    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

    Success Stories:

    Republic of Georgia: Why do 41% of children in the country have elevated blood lead levels? See how Pure Earth unraveled the mystery.

    Senegal: See how one community emerged out of a deadly lead rush.