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Your Environment. Your Health.

Childhood lead poisoning: conservative estimates of the social and economic benefits of lead hazard control

Environmental Health Economic Analysis Annotated Bibliography


Research article Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
Gould E
Environmental Health Perspectives
This cost-benefit analysis of childhood lead poisoning determined that each dollar invested in lead paint hazard control resulted in a return of $17 - $221, or a net savings of $181-269 billion in health care, social, and behavioral costs. Results suggested there are substantial returns to investing in lead hazard control, particularly targeted at early intervention in communities most likely at risk.
Children (≤ 6 years)

Health Outcomes

  • Neurological/cognitive outcomes (IQ deficits, ADHD)

Environmental Agents

List of Environmental Agents:

  • Metal (lead)

Source of Environmental Agents:

  • Lead-based paint in housing

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)

Cost Measured:

  • Healthcare costs of screening and treatment (e.g., venipuncture, capillary blood sampling, lead assays, risk assessments/questionnaires, nurse-only visits, physician visits, environmental investigation/hazard removal, oral chelation, and intravenous chelation)
  • social/behavioral costs (e.g., criminal activity/crime costs)
  • lifetime earnings
  • special education costs
  • costs of lead-linked ADHD cases
  • tax revenue losses
  • costs of preventive measures resulting from criminal action

Potential Cost Measures:

  • Healthcare costs later in life
  • costs related to neonatal mortality
  • costs related to community improvement
  • lead paint litigation
  • indirect costs to criminal activity
  • medical diagnostics
  • costs of treatment for those with blood lead levels < 10 μg/dL
  • treatment costs for children who didn't receive immediate treatment for lead poisoning

Benefits Measures:

  • Study estimated the benefits of reducing lead-based paint in homes (i.e., household lead-based paint hazard control) relative to the direct/indirect healthcare costs associated with lead exposure (e.g., increased IQ, higher lifetime earnings, tax revenues, reduced spending on special education, and reduced criminal activity)

Potential Benefits:

  • Benefits of lead hazard control on property value and energy savings

Location: (Not available)

Models Used: (Not available)

Methods Used:

  • The author quantified the social and economic benefits to household lead paint hazard control compared with the investments needed to minimize exposure to these hazards. This research updated estimates of elevated blood lead levels among a cohort of children ≤ 6 years of age. The author — 1) compared the composition of children with blood lead levels between 2 and 10 μg/dL with the demographic patterns of the entire cohort of children ≤ 6 years of age; 2) constructed an upper and lower bound cost-effectiveness of strategies to reduce lead exposure; 3) summed and compared the total benefits and costs of childhood lead level reduction; and 4) estimated the net benefit of lead-based paint hazard control in homes.

Sources Used:

  • NHANES (CDC, 2003-2006); National Center for Environmental Health (CDC, 2007a); President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children (2000); US Department of Housing and Urban Development (2002); US Census Bureau (2008); Federal Bureau of Investigation (2006); US Bureau of Justice Statistics (2004); additional sources cited in publication

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Gould E. 2009. Childhood lead poisoning: conservative estimates of the social and economic benefits of lead hazard control. Environmental Health Perspectives.
  • Pubmed
  • DOI

NIEHS Funding: (Not available)

Other Funding: (Not available)

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