Childhood Lead Exposure in France: Benefit Estimation and Partial Cost-Benefit Analysis of Lead Hazard Control
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CitationPichery, Céline, Martine Bellanger, Denis Zmirou-Navier, Philippe Glorennec, Philippe Hartemann, and Philippe Grandjean. 2011. Childhood lead exposure in France: Benefit estimation and partial cost-benefit analysis of lead hazard control. Environmental Health 10(1): 44.
AbstractBackground: Lead exposure remains a public health concern due to its serious adverse effects, such as cognitive and behavioral impairment: children younger than six years of age being the most vulnerable population. In Europe, the lead-related economic impacts have not been examined in detail. We estimate the annual costs in France due to childhood exposure and, through a cost benefit analysis (CBA), aim to assess the expected social and economic benefits of exposure abatement. Methods: Monetary benefits were assessed in terms of avoided national costs. We used results from a 2008 survey on blood-lead (B-Pb) concentrations in French children aged one to six years old. Given the absence of a threshold concentration being established, we performed a sensitivity analysis assuming different hypothetical threshold values for toxicity above 15 μL, 24 μL and 100 μL. Adverse health outcomes of lead exposure were translated into social burden and economic costs based on literature data from literature. Direct health benefits, social benefits and intangible avoided costs were included. Costs of pollutant exposure control were partially estimated in regard to homes lead-based paint decontamination, investments aiming at reducing industrial lead emissions and removal of all lead drinking water pipes. Results: The following overall annual benefits for the three hypothetical thresholds values in 2008 are: €22.72 billion, €10.72 billion and €0.44 billion, respectively. Costs from abatement ranged from €0.9 billion to 2.95 billion/year. Finally, from a partial CBA of lead control in soils and dust the estimates of total net benefits were € 3.78 billion, € 1.88 billion and €0.25 billion respectively for the three hypothesized B-Pb effect values. Conclusions: Prevention of childhood lead exposure has a high social benefit, due to reduction of B-Pb concentrations to levels below 15 μL or 24 μL, respectively. Reducing only exposures above 100 μL B-Pb has little economic impact due to the small number of children who now exhibit such high exposure levels. Prudent public policies would help avoiding future medical interventions, limit the need for special education and increase future productivity, and hence lifetime income for children exposed to lead.
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