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.
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.