New Study Says Global Toll Of Lead Exposure Is Even Worse Than We Thought

"On the World Health Organization's list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern, lead is a familiar villain. The toxic metal contaminates air, soil, water and food, and builds up inside bodies over time. Its most widely publicized health impact is neurological damage in children, often measured in the loss of intelligence quotient (IQ) points. But lead's pernicious effects don't stop in childhood nor at the brain.

According to a new study in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, an estimated 5.455 million adults worldwide died in 2019 from cardiovascular disease (CVD) attributable to lead exposure — a toll more than six times higher than a previous estimate. The study goes on to provide what its authors say are the first monetary estimates of the total global cost of these lead-attributable deaths, along with the magnitude and cost of IQ loss in children under 5 years old.

For 2019 alone, the study puts the combined toll of cognitive damage and CVD mortality at $6 trillion (based on projected loss of future income and an economic measure known as value of statistical life), with the greatest burden falling on low- and middle-income countries."

Nicole Estvanik Taylor reports for NPR November 20, 2023.

Source: NPR, 11/21/2023