The combined cost of health effects resulting from lead pollution in Bangladesh is causing a loss of up to 9.0 per cent of the country's GDP, according to a new global study revealed on Tuesday.
The study published in the scientific journal the Lancet also said that lead pollution is an increasing risk of intellectual disabilities among children and causes four times higher deaths in Bangladesh, the fourth most lead pollution-impacted country.
According to the study, lead pollution has serious implications for children below five years of age, causing a loss of about 20 million (20,596,306) IQ points and causing a very high economic cost of US$10,897 million, which is 3.6 per cent of the country's annual GDP.
Childhood lead poisoning increases the risk of decreased intelligence in children, learning problems, and behavioural disorders, according to the study.
About 140,000 (138,054) cardiovascular disease deaths among adults aged 25 years or older due to lead exposure exceeded the previous estimation with a four-times higher mortality rate.
The combined cost of these health effects was US$28,633 million, which is a loss of 6 to 9 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2019, it said.
The Lancet Planetary Health journal published the World Bank's analysis titled 'Global health burden and cost of lead exposure in children and adults: a health impact and economic modelling analysis.’
In Bangladesh, the major sources of lead exposure include used-lead acid battery recycling in informal settings, leaded paint, aluminium cookware, ceramic food ware, spices, toys, cosmetics, food, electronic waste, fertilisers, and cultured fish feed.
‘Lead-safe Bangladesh Coalition’ is an alliance of organisations in Bangladesh that comprises members from NGOs, INGOs, the UN, researchers, academicians, and environmental health experts.
Coalition members expressed their concerns and urged the government and policymakers to take immediate action following their suggested ten-point action plan to address the lead pollution crisis. Collectively, they call for increased investment to scale up proven solutions.
Md. Mahbubur Rahman, Project Coordinator at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) said it is high time to take the existing evidence and design interventions to mitigate the problem at the source.
Dr. Mahfuzar Rahman, Bangladesh Country Director, Pure Earth, stated that, given the profound health and economic toll inflicted by lead exposure in Bangladesh, safeguarding the environment must become a top priority.
Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh, said, National-level surveillance and assessments of possible contaminants in the home are needed to identify lead exposure and the appropriate response."