800 million children suffer elevated blood lead levels- USAID


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have revealed that about 800 million children worldwide are presently suffering from elevated blood lead levels.

The international health agencies made the disclosure at the ongoing 77th World Health Assembly, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Lead, a potent neurotoxin, poses severe risks to cognitive development, resulting in decreased productivity and earnings. It has no safe level of human exposure, with negative impacts on children’s cognitive development, thereby resulting in lower productivity and earnings power.

Of particular concern is the heightened vulnerability of children and women of reproductive age to the adverse effects of lead exposure. During pregnancy, lead exposure can lead to serious complications, including reduced fetal growth, low birth weight, and preterm births, exacerbating the risks of neonatal mortality and stillbirths.

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Recent studies have indicated  that children with elevated blood lead levels face long-term health implications, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood, resulting in approximately 1.6 million deaths annually.

Leading the plenary session at the current global health assembly meeting are USAID Administrator Samantha Power and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director of Humanitarian Action and Supply Operations Ted Chaiban, alongside representatives from the WHO, Lead Exposure Elimination Project, and the governments of Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

The health leaders highlighted the most effective solution to mitigate the impact of lead was to prevent exposure by addressing known sources of lead, including paint and spices, and generate data and awareness of the impact of lead exposure.

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USAID and UNICEF seized the global platform to advocate for greater attention to the health impacts of lead exposure and to urge ministries of health to spearhead multi-sectoral action to mitigate its effects. The meeting concluded with a call for united efforts to protect the health and well-being of mothers and children worldwide from the perils of lead poisoning.


  1. This staggering statistic is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of lead poisoning on children’s health and development worldwide. Urgent action is needed to address this preventable crisis, including increasing access to safe housing, healthcare, and education. We must work together to ensure a lead-free future for all children.


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