Tackling the Global Burden of Lead Poisoning

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Lead poisoning affects one in three children worldwide; it is thought to be responsible for upwards of 1.6 million deaths per year; and it accounts for an estimated fifth of the difference in learning levels between rich and poor countries. Yet it has received just $11 million in annual philanthropic funding—a drop in the ocean compared to resources for other global health and development challenges.

CGD is working to elevate the profile of lead poisoning as a global development challenge at the highest levels of policy-making while progressing the research agenda on the issue and catalysing action by international actors. In 2022, we convened a working group comprising senior figures from international organizations, leading experts, and NGOs working in the space to elevate and shed light on this neglected issue.

In October 2023, the working group published its final statement, calling on global leaders to take immediate action to end childhood lead poisoning by 2040. Since then, the working group has engaged leading funders and philanthropies in addressing lead poisoning. Now, a growing coalition, including USAID, is working to tackle the issue head-on, with USAID administrator Samantha Power calling for a global effort against lead poisoning at the most recent World Economic Forum. 

CGD experts in education, health, and development economics are continuing research to identify the knowledge gaps preventing us from understanding the global lead poisoning crisis, with the aim of ending it once and for all.