World pollution report: Lead poses biggest threat


Lead has been named as the world’s worst toxin in a report published by NGOs Pure Earth and Green Cross Switzerland on Wednesday.

About 26 million people in developing countries are exposed to the heavy metal, resulting in the loss of 9 million “disability adjusted life years,” the report says.

Inhaling air polluted with lead or consuming contaminated food can damage the nervous system, and at higher concentrations lead poisoning can be fatal. The heavy metal is mined for a range of uses and is also released in the recycling of batteries.

The world pollution report judges the six most harmful toxins to be lead, radionuclides, mercury, hexavalent chromium, pesticides and cadmium, which it says affect 95 million people worldwide.

President of Pure Earth, Richard Fuller, writes that “pollution accounts for 1 in every 7 deaths in low- and middle-income countries.”

The report also points to progress in the field of toxin management, including the World Bank’s PMEH programme on water, air and soil pollution, and the UNEP Minamata Convention on Mercury.