LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 7 no 2, 1999, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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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 [g/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.


Change in IQ points (allowing only 2 IQ point loss per 10 g/dL)

Cost of IQ change per child (allowing $5,190 per IQ point lost)

1.5 g/dL to 2.5 g/dL

0.3 to 0.5

$1,557 to $2,595

3 g/dL to 5 g/dL

0.6 to 1.0

$3,114 to $5,190

4.5 g/dL to 7.5 g/dL

0.9 to 1.5

$4,671 to $7,785

6 g/dL to 10 g/dL

1.2 to 2.0

$6,228 to $10,380

8 g/dL to 12 g/dL

1.6 to 2.4

$8,304 to $12,456

9 g/dL to 15 g/dL

1.8 to 3

$9,342 to $15,570

12 g/dL to 20 g/dL

2.4 to 4

$12,456 to $20,760

16 g/dL to 24 g/dL

3.2 to 4.6

$16,608 to $24,912

18 g/dL to 30 g/dL

3.6 to 6

$18,684 to $31,140

21 g/dL to 35 g/dL

4.2 to 7

$21,798 to $36,300

(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:

  • healthier and smarter children with reduced anti-social behaviour

  • reduction in special education costs

  • sending children to school "ready to learn"

  • reduction in health care costs - avoids expensive chelation therapy and other associated health care expenditure

  • employment opportunities created (as has occurred overseas) when a viable lead abatement industry is established

  • because lead is not biodegradable its potential to harm is long lasting. Every building that is lead abated reduces the risk to future generations from lead poisoning.

  • children are still dying from sniffing leaded petrol in some Australian communities (leaded petrol was phased out in NZ in September 1996. It was banned in Japan in 1986, Canada in 1990, Austria 1993, USA 1995.)

  • the latest estimate for the phase out of leaded petrol in Australia is 2010!

"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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Last Updated 08 October 2011
Copyright The LEAD Group Inc. 1991 - 2011
PO Box 161 Summer Hill NSW 2130 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9716 0014