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Your Environment. Your Health.

Global Cost of Childhood Lead Exposure

Leonardo Trasande, M.D.
NIEHS Grant R21ES018723
New York University School of Medicine

According to research supported by NIEHS, low-income and middle-income countries experience the largest burden of lead exposure, with cost measured in what are known as international dollars. An international dollar is a hypothetical currency used to compare costs from various countries. It has the same purchasing power as a dollar would in the U.S.

The investigators estimate that childhood lead exposure in low-income and middle-income countries is associated with lost lifetime economic productivity of $977 billion international dollars annually, or 1.2 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. For comparison, lead-associated loss in lifetime economic productivity is estimated to be $50.9 billion international dollars in the U.S. and $55 billion international dollars in Europe.

The researchers calculated lead-associated loss, by developing a regression model to estimate average blood lead levels and estimating the lead-attributable economic costs with an environmentally attributable fraction model. They examined only the neurodevelopmental effects of lead, which were assessed using IQ points. The investigators estimate that the total lead-associated economic loss ranges from $728.6 to $1,162.5 billion international dollars, including $134.7 billion in Africa, $142.3 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean, and $699.9 billion in Asia.

Citation: Attina TM, Trasande L. 2013. Economic costs of childhood lead exposure in low- and middle-income countries. Environ Health Perspect; dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1206424 [Online 25 June 2013].


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