Lead Pollution

Lead pollution is a widespread problem that receives little attention. What is the scale of the problem and how can we tackle it?

Lead poisoning is estimated to account for about 1% of the global disease burden.1

This is a large burden for a problem that gets very little attention.

On an individual level, being exposed to lead in the environment can hinder a child’s brain development: it can result in a reduction in IQ; cognitive function; and has been linked to higher levels of antisocial behavior.2

But it's a global problem that we can tackle. Many countries have already made significant progress against it.

On this page you can find all our data, visualizations and writing relating to lead pollution.

Research & Writing

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I would like to thank Lucia Coulter and Clare Donaldson, at the Lead Exposure Elimination Project, for their insights and support of this project. Thanks also to Max Roser for feedback and suggestions on this work.


  1. The Institute for Health Metrics’ Global Burden of Disease study estimates that in 2019, lead exposure was responsible for just over 0.9% of global disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

  2. Attina, T. M., & Trasande, L. (2013). Economic costs of childhood lead exposure in low-and middle-income countries. Environmental health perspectives, 121(9), 1097-1102.

    Lanphear et al. (2005) Low-Level Environmental Lead Exposure and Children’s Intellectual Function: An International Pooled Analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives.

    Ericson, B., Dowling, R., Dey, S., Caravanos, J., Mishra, N., Fisher, S., … & Fuller, R. (2018). A meta-analysis of blood lead levels in India and the attributable burden of disease. Environment International, 121, 461-470.

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Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2022) - “Lead Pollution” Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]

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    author = {Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser},
    title = {Lead Pollution},
    journal = {Our World in Data},
    year = {2022},
    note = {}
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