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.

Work on Lead Poisoning

Working Group Members

  • Rachel Silverman-Bonnnifield (Chair), Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Ana Boischo, Regional Advisor, Unit of Climate Change and Environmental Determinants of Health, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Sara Brosche, Science Advisor, International Pollutants Elimination Network
  • 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 (LEEP)
  • Lee Crawfurd, Research Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Clare Donaldson, Co-Executive Director, Lead Exposure Elimination Project (LEEP) 
  • Jenna Forsyth, Academic Program Professional, Medicine - Med/Infectious Diseases, Woods Institute of the Environment, Stanford University
  • Richard Fuller, President, Pure Earth
  • Javier Guzman, Director of the Global Health Policy Program and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Johannes Heister, Sr. Environmental Specialist, GEF/MP Coordination Unit Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy Global Practice (ENB), World Bank
  • 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)
  • Paromita Hore, Environmental Health Scientist, NYC Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Disease and Injury Prevention
  • Daniel Kass, Senior Vice President, Environmental, Climate, and Urban Health, Vital Strategies
  • Rajiv Kumar, Former Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog
  • Rachael Kupka, Executive Director, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP)
  • Bruce Lanphear, Professor at Simon Fraser University
  • Jessica Leighton, Public Health team, Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • LeAnna Marr, Education Advisor
  • Imran Matin, Executive Director, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development
  • Andrew McCartor, Executive Director, Pure Earth
  • Lesley Onyon, Unit Head for Chemical, Safety and Health, World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Albert Park, Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank
  • Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, Global Lead for Pollution Management and Circular Economy, World Bank
  • Justin Sandefur, Co-Director of Global Education and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
  • Karti Sandilya, Senior Adviser, Pure Earth
  • Abheet Solomon, Global Programme Lead, Healthy Environments for Healthy Children, UNICEF
  • Steven Whittaker, Research Services Program Manager, Hazardous Waste and Management Program, Public Health, Seattle & King County
  • Prashant Yadav, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development; Affiliate Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD


  • Angela Bandemehr, Senior International Environmental Program Specialist, Office of International Affairs, US Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)
  • Steve Wolfson, Senior Attorney, Office of General Counsel, U.S. EPA
  • Valerie Zartarian, Senior Scientist and Advisor, Office of Research and Development, U.S. 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.