The pediatric burden of disease from lead exposure at toxic waste sites in low and middle income countries

Kevin Chatham-Stephens*, Jack Caravanos, Bret Ericson, Philip Landrigan, Richard Fuller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The impact of lead from toxic waste sites on children in low and middle income countries has not been calculated due to a lack of exposure data. We sought to calculate this impact in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs).

Materials and methods: Using an Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic (IEUBK) model, we converted soil and drinking water lead levels from sites in the Blacksmith Institute[U+05F3]s Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) into mean blood lead levels (BLLs). We then calculated the incidence of mild mental retardation (MMR) and DALYs resulting from these BLLs.

Results: The TSIP included 200 sites in 31 countries with soil (n=132) or drinking water (n=68) lead levels, representing 779,989 children younger than 4 years of age potentially exposed to lead. Environmental lead levels produced a range of BLLs from 1.56 to 104.71. μg/dL. These BLLs equated to an estimated loss of 5.41-8.23 IQ points, resulting in an incidence of MMR of 6.03 per 1000 population and 76.1 DALYs per 1000 population.

Discussion: Soil and water lead levels at toxic waste sites predict BLLs that lower the intelligence quotient (IQ), with the resulting MMR potentially limiting individual- and country-level development. The preventable burden of disease produced by these sites highlights the need for toxic waste sites to be systematically identified, evaluated, and remediated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-383
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood lead level
  • Children
  • Disability adjusted life year
  • Low and middle income country
  • Toxic waste site

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The pediatric burden of disease from lead exposure at toxic waste sites in low and middle income countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this