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Lead Poisoning Responsible for 5 Million Deaths Annually, Costing $6 Trillion

Lead poisoning is a global issue that is resulting in over five million deaths each year and causing young children to lose nearly six IQ points on average, according to a recent study. This alarming revelation highlights the significant impact of lead exposure on public health and underscores the urgent need for action.

Lead exposure can occur through various sources including food, soil, cookware, fertilizers, cosmetics, and batteries. The World Bank economists who conducted the study have found that lead exposure is a major contributor to heart disease deaths. In fact, an estimated 5.5 million adults died from heart disease in 2019 due to lead exposure, which is six times higher than previously believed. Shockingly, this accounts for approximately 30 percent of global cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

The economic cost of lead exposure is also substantial, amounting to a staggering $6 trillion in 2019 alone, equivalent to seven percent of the world’s gross domestic product. This economic burden falls on both developed and developing countries, highlighting the need for a global effort to address this issue.

Furthermore, the study reveals the devastating impact of lead poisoning on children’s cognitive development. In 2019, children under the age of five lost a cumulative 765 million IQ points globally due to lead poisoning. The majority of these losses occurred in developing countries, indicating the urgent need for targeted interventions in these areas.

The study utilized blood lead level estimates from 183 countries and examined various ways lead affects heart health, including the hardening of arteries. However, some experts have expressed concerns about the study’s limitations, such as the generalizability of lead’s effects on heart disease worldwide and the use of estimations rather than direct tests in developing countries.

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In fact, surveys in developing countries have often revealed higher levels of lead contamination than previously estimated, suggesting that the impact of lead may be even worse than reported. A separate report by NGO Pure Earth further emphasizes the gravity of the situation, highlighting the high rates of lead contamination in consumer goods and food in developing countries. This underscores the urgent need to address lead poisoning in everyday environments, particularly in kitchens where cooking utensils and cookware may contribute to lead exposure.

This study serves as a wake-up call for governments, policymakers, and public health organizations to take swift action in eliminating lead exposure and its devastating consequences. By implementing robust regulations, promoting lead-safe practices, and investing in clean-up efforts, we can work towards a safer and healthier future for all.


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