Understanding and Mitigating the Global Burden of Lead Poisoning

July 07, 2022

An estimated 800 million children around the world suffer from lead poisoning. Almost all of these children live in low- and middle-income countries, where lead exposure remains pervasive, mostly invisible, and almost entirely neglected.

Lead poisoning may be one of the most overlooked challenges in global health, education, and development. Exposure to lead creates a multi-pronged and permanent attack on these children’s health and development during their vulnerable and formative early years, with devastating lifelong effects. Lead exposure is associated with cognitive deficits, lower educational attainment, behavioral disorders, violence, and reduced lifetime earnings. Though data is patchy, estimates suggest that lead exposure may cause 900,000 deaths and 1 trillion dollars in economic losses every year. 

Lead poisoning is a politically salient issue in the US, but in many low- and middle-income countries the burden is much higher and yet it does not receive sufficient political attention nor financial resources from domestic governments and the global community. Greater global attention to the burden of lead poisoning—paired with evidence-based strategies to reduce lead exposure—is needed to elevate local prioritization, motivate the requisite multi-sectoral cooperation, and address the issue.

To this end, CGD recently launched a multistakeholder Working Group on Understanding and Mitigating the Global Burden of Lead Poisoning, including policymakers and leaders from affected governments; aid agencies and funders; NGOs; and subject matter experts on lead, health, and education. The working group is expected to convene three times over 1.5 years. The process will culminate in a final report, expected in autumn 2023, which will generate a global framework and action agenda to progressively reduce the global burden of lead poisoning.

Working Group Members

  • Rachel Silverman-Bonnnifield (Chair), Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Angela Bandemehr, Senior International Environmental Program Specialist, Office of International Affairs, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Jack Caravanos, Clinical Professor of Global Environmental Public Health, School of Public Health, NYU
  • Laurence Chandy, Director, Office of Global Insight and Policy, UNICEF
  • Lucia Coulter, Director and Co-Founder, Lead Exposure Elimination Project
  • Lee Crawfurd, Research Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Richard Fuller, President, Pure Earth
  • Amanda Glassman, Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development; CEO, Center for Global Development Europe
  • Javier Guzman, Director of the Global Health Policy Program and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Susannah Hares, Co-Director of Global Education and Senior Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Howard Hu, Chair and Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California (USC)
  • Rajiv Kumar, Former Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog
  • Rachael Kupka, Executive Director, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP)
  • Bruce Lanphear, Professor of Health Science, Simon Fraser University
  • Jessica Leighton, Public Health team, Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • LeAnna Marr, Education Advisor
  • Gyude Moore, Senior Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Phyllis Omido, Social Justice Activist; Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Center for Justice, Governance, and Environmental Action
  • Albert Park, Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank
  • Justin Sandefur, Co-Director of Global Education and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Karti Sandilya, Senior Adviser, Pure Earth
  • Hemang Shah, Director, Child Health and Development, Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF)
  • Abheet Solomon, Global Programme Lead, Healthy Environments for Healthy Children, UNICEF
  • Prashant Yadav, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development; Affiliate Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD
  • Valerie Zartarian, Senior Research Physical Scientist, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


Research Staff

  • Christelle Saintis-Miller, Program Coordinator, Center for Global Development
  • Rory Todd, Research Assistant, Center for Global Development


All outputs of the Working Group will be products of the Center for Global Development (CGD). These products will be informed by the deliberations of the Working Group and background research/analyses. Working Group members serve in their individual capacities, not as official representatives of any organization. Working Group members will not necessarily endorse all outputs, nor will Working Group outputs constitute an endorsement or policy commitment by any party. All errors and omissions are those of the authors for any individual product.