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Piloting the First Survey of Blood Lead Levels in the Philippines

Piloting the First Survey of Blood Lead Levels in the Philippines
the details…
Key pollutant
GiveWell, USAID, Clarios Foundation, Meridian BioScience, Open Philanthropy
Project Partners

National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC) and the Philippine Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST FNRI)

Pure Earth Philippines, in partnership with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), completed the first-ever survey of childhood lead poisoning in the country in 2021-2022. 

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that about half of the 40 million children in the Philippines have blood lead levels (BLLs) above 5 microgram per deciliter, the standard for intervention set by the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Various local BLL studies in children from 1995 to 2017 showed a range of 5.39 to 67.6 ug/dL.  However, until now, there has been no systematic effort to collect and analyze blood lead data from across the country to understand the true scope of lead poisoning.

The Philippines survey is testing up to 3,200 children ages six through nine, and up to 320 pregnant women in 13 areas across the country, including the cities of Muntinlupa, Navotas, Pasay, Pasig, and Valenzuela in Metro Manila; provinces of Bataan, Batangas, Cavite, and Tarlac in Luzon; Bacolod City and Bohol province in Visayas; and General Santos City and Surigao del Norte province in Mindanao.

Pure Earth intends to work with the National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC) to design a system to monitor blood lead levels at specific childhood developmental milestones.  This will enable early detection of lead exposure and early intervention, which will reduce significant adverse health effects.  The aim is for NPMCC’s regional sites across the country to be able to provide treatment and follow-up assessments for patients.

Watch this video to learn more from the team.

Update 2024

As of early 2023, preliminary results have been shared with the Department of Health. In addition, Pure Earth Philippines presented the Preliminary Report during the First National Conference on Social Development and Sustainability (NCSDS).

With support from Open Philanthropy,  advocacy efforts are continuing to permanently establish BLL monitoring, and surveillance systems, and response systems to lead poisoning cases.

Country Director, Larah Ibanez shares her reflections on a recent meeting with USAID Assistant Administrator, Dr. Atul Gawande.


Philippines: Identifying Childhood Lead Poisoning in the Philippines