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Your Environment. Your Health.

Societal benefits of reducing lead exposure

Environmental Health Economic Analysis Annotated Bibliography


Research article Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
Schwartz J
Environmental Research
This study provided an introduction to cost-benefit analysis methods for reducing lead exposure and also presents an example analysis which found that for a 1 µg/dl reduction in blood lead concentrations a society can save $17 billion a year. The author highlighted major research gaps for cost effective control of lead toxicity, such as a better understanding of low-dose health effects, the molecular basis of lead toxicity, and better measurement techniques for both research and screening.
Not available

Health Outcomes

  • Neurological/cognitive outcomes (IQ deficits)
  • cardiovascular outcomes (myocardial infarctions, hypertension, stroke)
  • mortality
  • birth outcomes (low gestational age)

Environmental Agents

List of Environmental Agents:

  • Metal (lead)

Source of Environmental Agents:

  • Lead-based paint

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)

Cost Measured:

  • Costs related to reduced IQ (reduced lifetime earnings, effect on schooling and educational achievement, special education)
  • lost wages
  • mortality

Potential Cost Measures:

  • Effects of lead on growth, balance, hearing, cancer, and metabolic disturbances
  • cognitive damage due to prenatal lead exposure
  • hyperactivity and attention disorders
  • low birth weight

Benefits Measures:

  • Reduction in the number of children who require medical attention
  • reduced infant mortality
  • reduced cardiovascular outcomes such as stroke and hypertension in adults
  • reduced medical costs for cardiovascular disease
  • increased workplace participation
  • increased graduation rates

Potential Benefits: (Not available)

Location: (Not available)

Models Used: (Not available)

Methods Used:

  • The author provided a brief overview of the basic methods and issues involved in calculating the social benefits of lead control policies. The author — 1) discussed a classical approach to derive a theoretical model of the benefits or utility that a person gains from possessions, including health; 2) examined value of lifetime earnings, estimates of the effects of lead on IQ and schooling, and estimates of the effect of IQ on work force participation and wage rates to examine costs of cognitive damage in children; 3) discussed conservative costs of fetal effects of lead from willingness to pay studies; and 4) estimated of health benefits in adults involving blood pressure and cardiovascular disease studies and adapted it to reflect advancements in medical technology.

Sources Used:

  • Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1976-1980 (NHANES II) (CDC); Blood lead baseline distribution (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 1990); Consumer Price Index; U.S. Department of Education; U.S. Bureau of the Census; 1978 Social Security Survey of Disability and Work (US DHHS, 1981); Office of Technology Assessment; National Medical Care Expenditure Survey (NCHSR, 1981); additional sources cited in publication

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Schwartz J. 1994. Societal benefits of reducing lead exposure. Environmental Research.
  • Pubmed
  • DOI

NIEHS Funding: (Not available)

Other Funding: (Not available)

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