7 no 2, 1999
Cost to the Community for Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Children
By Michelle Calvert, Spokesperson, The LEAD Group
In 1993 the National Medical Health and Research Council set an Australian goal for ALL Australians to be below 10 micrograms per decilitre [µg/dL] of lead in the blood.
The table below sets out costs to the community for increases in blood lead levels - resulting in IQ point loss and therefore cost to the community for health and remedial education and lost earning potential.
(Source: Dr. Gul IZMIR, 1993 NSW EPA.)
The NSW EPA estimate for the number of preschoolers with blood lead levels above 10 micrograms per decilitre is between 36,600 and 221,620 in NSW ALONE.
Apart from the inestimable personal cost of lost intellectual potential, the cost to the Australian economy is CONSERVATIVELY equal to: 36,600 children x $8,304 to 221,620 x $12,456 for blood lead level of 10 mg/dL equals $303,926,400 to $2,760,498,720. This sum of between almost $304 million to $2.8 billion does not take into account the unknown number of older children and adults with elevated blood lead levels.
Higher blood lead levels mean more cost to the community.
The economic benefits of investing in lead prevention programs include:
"If even minimal increases in lead levels in children contributes to a significant proportion of school failure and anti social behaviour and ultimately impairs productivity in adulthood, as the current information suggests, then a greater commitment than has hitherto been made is required to confront this public health issue."
Drs. Alperstein and Vimpani, Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.
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