"Study: Lead Exposure Killed More Than 5 Million People In Just One Year"

"Contamination from battery recyclers, tainted cookware, and fertilizers could be contributing to the health crisis."

"There is no safe level of lead. The naturally occurring metal is so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency began banning its use in paint and gasoline in the 1970s, following the lead of other countries. Since then, a growing body of research has confirmed the health effects of lead exposure, including heart and kidney diseases. The effects are particularly pronounced in children. Exposure to lead in the first five years of life has been shown to hinder brain development, stunting a child’s ability to learn, focus, and control their impulses.

A new study from the World Bank tallies the staggering worldwide toll: 5.5 million deaths from heart diseases because of exposure to lead in 2019 alone. Researchers also found that exposure to lead in children under 5 years old led to a loss of more than 750 million IQ points — a standardized measure of intellectual ability. People in low- and middle-income countries, where blood lead levels are higher on average than in high-income countries, were hit hardest. The overall cost of exposure was $6 trillion in 2019, the equivalent of nearly 7 percent of the world’s economic output.  

“There has been this idea that since the phase out of lead in gasoline [in the 1970s], the problem has more or less been solved,” said Bjorn Larsen, a consultant with the World Bank and lead author of the study. “Our estimate indicates that the health effects and the cost of lead exposure is possibly as large as the health effects and costs of fine particulate ambient air pollution and household air pollution combined. That is enormous.”"

Naveena Sadasivam reports for Grist September 12, 2023.

Source: Grist, 09/14/2023