191708 Social costs of lead poisoning in the (almost) post-lead era

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 2:30 PM

Peter Muennig, MD, MPH , Department of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University, New York, NY

Thanks to strict regulations in the 1970s and 1980s, children born today can expect lead exposures that amount to a tiny fraction of those of their parents. While further reductions in the mean blood lead level of America's children are possible, such reductions would come at a very high cost. This study seeks to estimate the benefits that might be realized were all children in the U.S. to have a blood lead level of less than 1mcg/dl.


This study relies on published and electronic datasources to populate a Markov chain model. The model includes improved earnings, reduced crime costs, improvements in health, and reduced welfare costs under two scenarios: 1) maintaining the status quo and 2) reducing the blood lead level of all children to less than 1mdg/dl.


Reducing blood lead levels among all American children aged 0 to 6 today to less than 1mcg/dl would increase on-time high school graduation rates from 68% to 91%. The net societal benefits arising from these improvements in high school graduation rates would amount to $57,000 (SD $15,000) per child annually at a discount rate of 3%. This would amount to savings of just under a trillion dollars in total future savings. In addition, 0.18 QALYs (SD 0.08 QALYs) would be gained per child for a total benefit of just under 3 million QALYs gained.


More aggressive programs aimed at reducing childhood lead exposure would produce large social benefits.

Learning Objectives:
To analyze the possible benefits associated with aggressive lead abatement policies To describe the burden of disease and the social costs associated with childhood lead poisoning

Keywords: Lead, Cost Issues

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a professor of health policy at Columbia University with extensive experience conducting similar economic analyses.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.