Papers/Publications: General

General articles from peer-reviewed journals from around the world on pollution and its effects on health.

Mapping Global Environmental Lead Poisoning in Children

Date: Nov 2011

Description: Despite global efforts to reduce children’s environmental lead exposure over the past several decades, lead exposure in heavily contaminated areas, or hotspots, is still an urgent public health concern in many parts of the world.1-2 The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease Study Lead Working Group estimated that lead-associated mild mental retardation and cardiovascular diseases account for 0.9% of the global burden of disease. This estimate excludes hotspot exposures, however, because data from such sites is not available in all cases, and the number of children living in hotspots is unknown. Hotspots have higher environmental lead levels than the general environment and so have the potential to cause severe lead poisoning in young children, sometimes leading to mortality.

Read the paper in the Journal of Health and Pollution

Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Environmental Remediation in Poor and Middle Income Countries

Date: June 2012

Description: Recent research has identified more than 2,000 locations in 47 poor and middle income countries where people are exposed to toxins at dangerous levels. This is conservatively estimated to adversely affect the health of over 70 million people. The actual number of such sites is unknown, but is undoubtedly much greater. Reducing toxins at these sites to safe levels would improve the health of thousands, perhaps millions, of people and save many lives. Although conventional approaches to contaminated site remediation can often be technologically complex and expensive, there are innovative and emerging technologies that are much simpler and less costly to implement, yet can, in the right circumstances, achieve equivalent results. The
widespread use of such technologies could speed much needed remediation of toxic sites in poor and middle income countries.

Read the paper in the Journal of Health and Pollution

The burden of disease from pediatric lead exposure at hazardous waste sites in 7 Asian countries

Date: June 2012

Description: Identification and systematic assessment of hazardous wastes sites in low and middle-income countries has lagged. Hazardous waste problems are especially severe in lower income Asian countries where environmental regulations are non-existent, nonspecific or poorly enforced. In these countries extensive unregulated industrial development has created waste sites in densely populated urban areas. These sites appear to pose significant risks to public health, and especially to the health of children.

To assess potential health risks from chemical contamination at hazardous waste sites in Asia, we assessed 679 sites. A total of 169 sites in 7 countries were classified as contaminated by lead. Eighty-two of these sites contained lead at levels high enough to produce elevated blood lead levels in surrounding populations.

To estimate the burden of pediatric lead poisoning associated with exposure to lead in soil and water at these 82 lead-contaminated sites, we used standard toxicokinetic models that relate levels of lead in soil and water to blood lead levels in children. We calculated blood lead levels, and we quantified losses of intelligence (reductions in IQ scores) that were attributable to lead exposure at these sites.

We found that 189,725 children in the 7 countries are at risk of diminished intelligence as a consequence of exposure to elevated levels of lead in water and soil at hazardous waste sites. Depending on choice of model, these decrements ranged from 4.94 to 14.96 IQ points. Given the restricted scope of this survey and the conservative estimation procedures employed, this number is almost certainly an underestimate of the full burden of disease.

Exposure to toxic chemicals from hazardous waste sites is an important and heretofore insufficiently examined contributor to the Global Burden of Disease.

Read the paper here

A Comparison of Burden of Disease from Toxic Waste Sites with other Recognized Public Health Threats in India, Indonesia and the Philippines

Date: October 2014

Read the paper in the Journal of Health and Pollution Pollution 

Burden of Disease from Toxic Waste Sites in India, Indonesia and the Philippines in 2010

Date: May 2013

Description: Toxic waste sites are responsible for a significant burden of disease in low and middle-income countries. Although some factors, such as unidentified and unscreened sites, may cause our estimate to be an under estimate of the actual burden of disease, other factors, such as extrapolation of environmental sampling to the entire exposed population, may result in an over estimate of the burden of disease attributable to these sites. Toxic waste sites are a major, and heretofore under recognized, global health problem.

Burden of Disease from Toxic Waste Sites in India, Indonesia and the Philippines in 2010, Environmental Health Perspectives

WHO: Health Impacts of Chemicals

Description: World Health Organization's International Programme on Chemical Safety

Health impacts of chemicals

Knowns And Unknowns On Burden Of Disease Due To Chemicals: A Systematic Review

Author: Annette Prüss-Ustün, Carolyn Vickers, Pascal Haefliger, Roberto Bertollini

Date: February 2013

Description: Continuous exposure to many chemicals, including through air, water, food, or other media and products results in health impacts which have been well assessed, however little is known about the total disease burden related to chemicals. This is important to know for overall policy actions and priorities. In this article the known burden related to selected chemicals or their mixtures, main data gaps, and the link to public health policy are reviewed.

Knowns and unknowns on burden of disease due to chemicals