Here are some interesting lead statistics that will give you a better understanding of the lead problem in America and throughout the world:
- The most recent report by the Blacksmith Institute, a nonprofit group that examines the impact of different pollutants each year, most recently examined key pollutants at toxic sites in 49 countries and concluded that lead from mining, smelting, and recycling (the latter one typically from recycling car batteries) accounted for the most pervasive risk to human health in 2012. (Eugber, 2013) It’s estimated by the group that lead poisoning affects at least 16 million people around the world.
- According to the World Bank, as early as 1997 children in Shenyang, Shanghai and other major cities throughout China exhibited “blood-lead levels averaging 80 percent higher than levels considered dangerous to mental development.” (Lampton, 2010)
- The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 500,000 children in the S. between the ages of 1 and 5 have elevated levels of lead in their body. (Young, 1-20-2016)
- While lead exposure rates are still too high, they have been decreasing. In the late 1970s, 88% of young Americans ages 1 to 5 had at least 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood – twice the level that sparks concern today. By the 1990s, only 4.4% of kids had the same level of exposure. (Mastio, 2016) The average amount of lead in children has dropped over the past 3 decades from an average of 15 micrograms per deciliter to just 2.2 in 2010, though experts believe this is still too high. (Shabecoff & Shabecoff, 2010, p. 61)
- The levels of lead decreased 84% from 1968 to 2004 (the latest data available in 2009) from almost 9% of children with high lead levels to 1.4%. The new study, in the March issue of Pediatrics, was based on surveys of 5,000 children. (Healy, 3-3-2009) Yet there’s still a lot more work to do, and a lot of kids are still being exposed at high doses.
- In 2015, the city of Flint, Michigan, had a water crisis that involved (in part) lead contamination. One child tested so high for lead they had to be hospitalized. The problem garnered widespread media coverage. Yet to contrast this historically, in 2005 CDC data showed more than 300 people with this degree (or worse) of lead contamination. In 2005, Michigan collected blood tests from 500,000 children under 6. Twenty-six percent of kids tested showed lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or greater – the official level of concern. In the most toxic areas of Flint in 2015, only 10.6% of kids experienced the same exposure. (Mastio, 2016) This fact speaks to the issue we discussed in the beginning of the book: Parents should be cautious without losing their mind over these issues.
- In the early 2000s, hundreds of homes in Washington C. were found to have tap water that had “stratospheric lead levels of 300 parts per billion or more.” (Mastio, 2016)
- Getting to lead-exposure rates of zero isn’t going to happen anytime soon, simply on account of the amount of lead in the environment and the number of homes with lead paint.
- Congress recently cut the CDC’s budget for lead-poisoning prevention programs by 94%, from $29 million in fiscal year 2011 to $2 million for 2012. This comes even as recent research has raised concerns that lead can be harmful at much smaller doses than was previously thought. (Ridel, 2012)