Lead Exposure Costs the Philippines Over US$15 Billion Annually - NYU Researchers

A new interactive map shows that lead exposure costs the Philippines more than US$ 15 billion (almost PHP 700 billion) annually. This cost exceeds the over US$ 675 million the Philippines received in net official development assistance (ODA) in 2014.  

The interactive map “Economic Costs of Childhood Lead Exposure in Low-and Middle-Income Countries” was developed by New York University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (NYU) and released today at the United Nations Environment Assembly meeting being held in Nairobi, Kenya. It can be accessed at: nyulmc.org/pediatricleadexposure.

“Children’s developing brains are permanently harmed by exposure to lead. One key impact is reduction in IQ score, which is correlated with decreases in lifetime earning potential. For the nation as a whole population-wide reductions in IQ means greater social costs and reduced intellectual capital, and other factors that adversely impact the Philippine economy, as the NYU map clearly shows,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. 

According to the World Health Organization, "There is no known safe blood lead concentration.”  When a young child is exposed to lead, the harm to her or his nervous system makes it more likely that the child will have difficulties in school and engage in impulsive and violent behavior. Lead exposure in young children is also linked to increased rates of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, failure to graduate from high school, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency, drug use, and incarceration.

According to the NYU researchers: “One of the most important things we can do to decrease children's exposure to lead in  low- and middle-income countries is to ensure lead is no longer used in household paint and other paints to which children may be exposed (such as paints on playground equipment).”

EcoWaste Coalition is a partner organization in IPEN’s Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign (http://ipen.org/projects/eliminating-lead-paint).  

In 2015, the EcoWaste Coalition released  the report “Lead in New Enamel Household Paints in the Philippines,” which analyzed the lead content in paints sold in the local market.   That study found 97 out of 140 enamel decorative paints (69 percent of the samples) contained lead concentrations above the regulatory standard of 90 parts per million (ppm), which may render young children and pregnant women at risk of lead poisoning.  Sixty-three of these samples contained dangerously high lead concentrations greater than 10,000 ppm, with one yellow quick-dry enamel paint containing the highest total lead content at 153,000 ppm.

DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 establishes a 90 ppm limit for lead in paint and provides for a phaseout deadline for leaded decorative paints by December 2016 and leaded industrial paints by December 2019.

“The research and the map released today clearly demonstrate that lead exposure greatly erodes the gains from development aid and that sustainable development will be severely hindered as long as childhood exposure to lead continues,” Lucero said.

Worldwide the cost of lead exposure, according to the NYU research, is $977 billion international dollars with economic losses equal to:

·         $134.7 billion in Africa (4.03% of gross domestic product (GDP) in that region),
·         $142.3 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean (2.04% of GDP in that region), and
·         $699.9 billion in Asia (1.88% of GDP in that region).

To prepare the interactive map, researchers assessed the neurodevelopmental impacts of lead, assessed as decrements (or reductions) in intelligence quotient (IQ) points caused by lead and how those reductions translated into decreases in lifetime earning potential, assessed as lost lifetime economic productivity (LEP) in each country examined. 

Additional comparison information to developed countries and to ODA dollars is also provided, along with links to the full report and supplemental information.

The EcoWaste Coalition is an environmental organization pursuing socially just and sustainable solutions to waste, chemical and climate issues in the Philippines, and is a member of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP).  

IPEN is a network of non-government organizations working in more than 100 countries to reduce and eliminate the harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals. IPEN is a member of the Advisory Group of GAELP, which seeks the elimination of lead in paint by 2020. 



Link to the interactive map:


Link to the World Bank data on net official development assistance:


Link to civil society campaign to eliminate lead paint: