« The Weeds

There's lead in your turmeric

2021-04-30

Matt is joined by Rachel Silverman, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, who talks about the extreme dangers and high prevalence of lead contamination globally. Despite the manifest health benefits that would be served by Biden's plans to finally replace lead pipes in the U.S., this is marginal compared to the lead poisoning occurring due to unregulated electronics recycling, traditional ceramics glazing, and by bright, yellow turmeric.

Resources:

"Biden Wants to Eliminate Lead Poisoning in American Children. We Propose an Even More Ambitious Goal: Global Eradication" by Susannah Hares, Rachel Silverman, and Lee Crawfurd (Apr. 20, 2021)

"Your old phone is full of untapped precious metals" by Bianca Nogrady, BBC (Oct. 18, 2016)

"Ground Turmeric as a Source of Lead Exposure in the United States" by Whitney Cowell, Thomas Ireland, Donna Vorhees, and Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Public Health Reports (May-Jun 2017)

Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution by Beth Gardiner (U. Chicago, 2019)

"New evidence that lead exposure increases crime" by Jennifer L. Doleac, Brookings Institution (June 1, 2017)

Guest:

Rachel Silverman (@rsilv_dc), policy fellow, Center for Global Development

Host:

Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Slowboring.com

Credits:

Erikk Geannikis, Editor and Producer

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello vocs listeners, my name is Aaron Lammert and I'm one of the whole of the long form Pied cast the newest addition to vocs in the box media pike network. We ve been doing the chauffeur over nine years. We ve got to talk to people like George Saunders, carry gross tonnage, hussy, coats and really tried to explore what it means to be a writer or a journalist. Today and twenty twenty one were also expanding to feature documentary ends: I'd casters, whoever we find interesting. So you can catch up on long form now at vocs dot, com, slash long form or in the pod, cast up of your choice.
Hello meets on boxing podcast, not what I meant to replace. Yes, my guest today, which will supplement, is a policy fellow at the center for global development and is one of the co authors of of a new report on an issue. I will admit, I had ever thought about much and it is lead. Poisoning and blood contamination in the global context adds thing: I've written about a fair amount in the domestic. U S context, and that Joe Biden has announced some initiatives to try to tackle, but obviously, as with many things, the issue exists outside of Americans borders as well. In really- and in this case, and in a much more severe way right, I mean that stir the sort of the basic bottom line here. Yes, exactly amnesia, what what do we know? What this means is that broad picture, but what's what's the scale,
you know lead poisoning globally, where'd. We see the kind of biggest problems like out. How should you think about this at a high level? So I think the first thing to say, as the scale is enormous, compared to anything we are currently experiencing in the last, but it is pretty analogous to what we have the Stork Lee experience me you ask so back in the day we used leaded petrol. There was lad being released. Everywhere into the environment. Blood lead levels were almost unit silly, very high up and tell the seventies when this was gradually phased out. So our grandparents, Terence, were all poisoned by lead in huge numbers. Now, thankfully, has since the nineteen seventy is this: when lady petrol was dazed out and lead paint in homes, Lead levels have dropped enormously. So in the U S, we really have a historical problems and inequality problems where you have small portions of the population,
who are still exposed. Violet types via fumbling paint on old buildings and they tend to be poor. They tend to be people of color, but the numbers are in absolute terms small, not to say it's acceptable, not to say we shouldn't do something about it. We should but we're talking about maybe percent or so of the population that has elevated blood levels above the five micrograms per deciliter, which the reference levels that, by the CDC, there's no safe level of lads of his kind of our reference level for tracking purposes said about two percent of american heads are above this level in the global context, about a third of kids worldwide are above this level about half of kids living in low and middle income countries, and about a third of kids and low and middle income. Countries are above ten micrograms per deciliter, which is a given higher standard, which we have, thankfully almost gotten rid of and again I think one way to think about. It is
you think about the levels we saw in Flint Michigan during the height of their water crisis, that was about five percent of american kids in those cities who were being poisoned and the kind of routine. Exposure rate and say tonight: India is about five times higher than what flinch was the worst part of the watercress us he needs a different thing is. I think it is important for people to understand, because I was so dramatic and it got so many people interested in in lead, but the nature of it is that it's like ducked the water was fouled, so people started avoiding right, which is different from the historical left in the United States was in the gas, so was in the air every everywhere, and there was no, of course, project to see you know, people needing to use bottled water, and you know not having saint say one in their homes, but when we had this much more serious historical
I led problem in the United States because it was unavoidable. It wasn't a nuisance, it was ubiquitous in in the air and I guess that's what we're talking about Globally is it is it mostly just that led was not phased out from from gasoline as aggressively part of the story, although not by any means the full stories that we actually have made a lot of progress globally. On that point, so as of two thousand and two there were still about you know, eighty sums countries that were using leaded petrol now we're down to one that has not completely phased out and that's Algeria. But basically we Sixteen it's all over his hearing. You know it's a great question for our further industrious, and I think that in the process of phasing it out, I have said this has been a tremendous achievement right. So
some of the lead is still in the atmosphere itself in the soil, so that as one source of exposure, but we have made enormous progress on the lead petrol issue, but there are actually a lot of other sources of let exposure that are pretty pervasive alone middle income countries that actually we just don't have. Currently you asked just completely different routes, so there's I mean I can go into there's a few different, so as someone who is lead acid battery recycling, so those are all of our car batteries either often used for industrial applications as well. Thankfully, it seems like Green energy technology is mostly moving away from. Let us batteries, but there's enough side and for traditional, let us a battery is to be a pretty lucrative overall industry led can be recycled, you. Can you not the batteries only last a couple of years, but you can then recycled the latin reuse it instead of just dumping it into the atmosphere, which is good
and when we do this in the, U S army recapture about ninety five percent of the land from the batteries and any waste product is, as you know, several sealed stored did not released into the atmosphere. It's all done, get a change to car battery recently in its like full of like labels exact. It's like don't put this in the God, yes to the special led guy exactly by the pro as in a lot alone, middle income countries. There is no special lead guy. There are people who recover lead in their backyard in backyard melter. These are often informal laborers. This is their life blood. This is how they make their living right and it's very important to them. But of course, if you have an open pit led smelter to recur The lad from car batteries and recycle it and you're not doing it with modern safety standards. There's a lot of occupational exposure for the people who work there, but also environmental contaminate and sometimes, as is done in the middle of towns and villages. So there
one enormous problems and source a related issue is e waste recycling. So again we produce in the west an enormous amount of electronic waste old monitors. Computer errors, small appliances, large appliances, olive it there also low and middle income countries that are producing chronic waste, so they have their own industry and use of these technologies there also producing at other right now. It's the west, that's producing most of us, and this is actually quite valuable The estimated total value of the materials in electronic waste each year is about sixty billion dollars, which is larger than the gdp of many countries because she says I use your monitors broke in, or your phone screen is crack door for
You saw it doesnt work anymore. You d want to use it, but there's lots of. I don't know, I don't know anything about it, but it's a modern electronics are complicated. So a lot of the parts of your broken thing are not themselves broken and you can salvage war even if their wrote in the raw materials are quite valuable ass. I heard this crazy statistic which tried to track down. It appears to be true, which is that a ton of old iphones contains during times more gold, then a ton of gold or so in your old electronics. There are very useful materials there's ten and aluminium manned lad, let as part of that, and gold and silver and platinum and there in no small amounts, but it
You are doing this in breaking them down dissembling the parts and melting down. Once again, this is can be quite lucrative, but the problem is, of course, that lead is one of several toxic substances that are part of the EU. All components, and so when you're doing this in informal centres, not through formal recycling, you have again hundreds of
thousands of people alone will income countries. This is our lifeline to go through this trashed, disassembly and pick out to soften its valuable, and you can see I mean you can view Google, I mean you can see, there's a lot of pictures. It seems like, especially in India. A lot of kind of them seems, like you know, like backyard. Smelting operations like big fire pits better, just quite quite open, and so I guess the me I mean it must be very hazardous work, but also creating a lot of atmospheric pollution right. It's not. I have sometimes complained about noon: bees and land use and stuff and in the United States, but that the upside of is that they won't. Let you just like smelt led in the middle of residential neighbourhood. Yes, even with pretty good pollution control yeah, this is perhaps the only legitimate use of not in my back yard. We really dont want led smelting and people's backyard. That's not agreed, I get so. The aim is that is this sort of flight
Quasar industrial Stop is that is that what drives the kind of worst contamination hotspots really industrial, its generally on a small scale, its informal, occasionally you'll got kind of cooperatives of people working together. Basically, you know it: L, B community air of town, where this is the big industry, but it's it's not really industrial. It's really inform all mostly unregulated, and this is kind of what people do. They don't have like formal sector employment and there and their lack of seeking ways to make a living If you, if you don't have land that you our nor or you know like a regular job, but exactly the other thing to say is in a lot of these countries. There is no formal e waste recycling. There is no formal system for doing this, so to the extent that it needs to happen, the people need to dispose of these things that something is to happen to it. It's largely done through these informal systems.
Don't use that you waste generated local m because ice on the bulk of electronics are consumed in the rich world trade and we are also more more likely to dispose of our stuff, you know cause it's old or a little out of kilter, but so then is the informal recycling. Is that local or dislike our trash barges and I've been Chennai and and people are smelt it get in there in their house? It's both so gold trash. Local e waste ends up mostly saying local, but there is an export business. So the figures I've seen suggest that only about twenty percent of e waste generated globally is properly recycled and dispose of through these regulated, Ed industrial recycling plants. The rest of it is kind of unaccounted for you. Sometimes these them exaggerated statistics and say the other. Eighty percent is shipped off to low and middle income countries,
That seems to be an exaggeration, but it does happen. It's illegal. There is a convention that supposed to prohibit this kind of dumping, but it does have been it sooner. They say it's industrial goods, right, they don't say industrial
so on the shipping containers? So there's some amount of those that happens again. That's an ex I've made you there's like an old argument right. This is associated with them. Larry summers- I guess, went when he was at the at the World Bank along I'm, go that that would be that that would be good right that low income countries are poor. That day, I think his raise was that there's like under pollution in developing countries, that its economic opportunity and a sort of a more efficient how come- and I mean, there's something- there's something chilling about that, but also its true right. It mean the reason people are doing this sort of hazardous trash reprocessing. Is it they're making money? Also right we're talking about very poor people who don't have a lot of
unity is going forward that my name is there some argument that are net. You know this is this is good to have you waste available to recycle? I dont think the availability of EU waste per SE is the problem. It's it's how its treated and that the system whereas I dont think the answer is to ban it the answer is to help the people who make their livelihoods. This way do so in a way that safer that protects their health effects. The health the community's around items I dont think, is necessarily a bad thing for recycling to take place, but there are was easy and then more difficult ways to improve the safety standards, and you know environmental contamination, but I dont think we can just for our hands up in the air and say insufficient for children. Be led. Boys ended in enormous numbers. I think that's a short sighted view of the world. I am against it
Well, he's always so in America right we had a historical gasoline problem present day this dust, I guess from Ghana from former I'm- is very glad. We have the water pipes that we talk about a lot, and this is the paint issue we don't we dont use lead in pain and more abbot is not old. Houses is let old paint searcher lying around in a forward. Looking basis are you use? A gasoline is basically gone everywhere, except her, except for Algeria is, is paint has happened, phased out or we are we done with lead paint globally. No there's still a lead, can't you know it. It does seem like it's less of a problem in relative terms than it is in the United States. Historically, fewer countries used lead paint, but it is not universally banned in other stall. I think over a hundred countries, where led painters officially permitted I think, actually you look at the global picture. It's not one of the main sources
of contamination for children. But it's no nothing help right. You got your trying to limit the additional lied you're putting out there. So that would be another good thing to get rid of. I wasn't usage red when it when I was researching, does in there in the? U S, conduct said nothing was Austria band led painted sunlike. Nineteen o four is like it was interesting to me was that the environmental problems of lead were actually
own much earlier in history than I had realized does I knew I mean this is a good. You know, smug, millennial, talking point that we go up in the eighties and we're not constantly bombarded with with let a gas or even if the air, but then makes it seem, like people only found out about the slight thirty or forty years ago, but actually all along. As far as I can tell, medical doctors were really concerned about about lead, and so I guess some places didn't get into the paint as much, and so what I mean. What can we do about this? I mean it's it's an unfortunate because it's good that people are using. Let a gasoline and lead paint everywhere.
But that also means that the most obvious ideas for reducing led don't seem to quite beyond the table lives. You are sources of land to go over the major airlines already everywhere ass. These are definitely a lot of how well much less known and much less thought about so the first one of the issues and which seems to me a much bigger problem than I would ever have accepted is that lead is often add. To two is to improve the color and weight of the space, so it is quite possible that tumor egg, specifically containment The tumor egg is responsible for an enormous amount of global lead poisoning. Should it pudding led into the tumor cracked. Why? Well? I think that you know, I think it makes it look better and gives it up
right or color. It gives it a denser wait. Curse is a and GEO the does some of the only real global work in the space, though I done to fire contaminated sites and communities that are suffering from lead, poisoning and I'll. Do some investigations to try and figure out what is this of the lad, and they didn't want to be as in Georgia, and found out that something like eighty percent of the lead poisoning in the community can be sourced back to contaminated teamwork. Sugars, lead is really heavy, yes, so that makes it so if your, if you're selling, spices by mass you're not syrup, that's exactly that areas. I bought a hooker again, I'm trying to think of it. As you know, my great grandfather, I think I have his little scale. Hee hee hee solved spices and they and they weighed the denser and enough. He was sneaking led into the jars. I open up. That's hard.
It is horrifying, but that would be what we're going to this later. But I think a big problem in general in trying to understand and address what's going on, is that there is really terrible global surveillance of thus, so it actually makes it quite difficult to figure out where it's coming from, but the biggest sources are and what the relatively low hanging fruit is for remediation. But Chirac seemed like a kid you one of those things based on the very limited sample of good information. We have certainly had at last one yes and then the last one is very interesting. It is ceramics, so led. Glazes are often used to see all the traditional stone and clay ceramics. So, if you think about beautiful, our sins in all mexican pottery. What is that glaze? That lays contains lad? so does earthenware from much of Latin America and Japan, China as Well- and this is used to cook this- is used to serve food on and the problem is
If you do this safely, if you fire it at a very high heat, the lead will properly seal and it's actually safe to use. Even though it contains lead, but if you're doing this in our towns and all workshops in factories, ay, there's occupational exposure for the people who work there and in the surrounding community is theirs contamination, but then also the lead does not see properly, and so when you're cooking with it, when you're eating with these utensils, these cops these bowls it stepping into the food then that's a little bit more of a low hanging fruit, because there is education, and do you can help traditional artisans,
great. Their facility is such that they are firing at a high enough. He it so there are things you can do there, so this is like the the queue traditional small entrepreneurs are. Probably the ones doing this problem right did like would you would you want, is like a very capital intensive super high, he kill em, and people's operating on a smaller scale are more likely to be producing sort of. Properly fire door or even just as dangerous as you're doing it ceramics yeah, I mean you can do it safely at a small scale without sending an enormous amount of money on the com. I think it's more of an awareness issue, verses that it's not possible for small artists. To do this safely, so I think you can work for the artisans to understand the problem better and scale it up in writing
flake acknowledges a lot of this to the tobacco problem. Where You know we have some awareness. Tobacco is dad, but people don't understand how bad it is, and you have to sort of build that awareness overtime and, as you build that awareness you're changing how you think that at an dance and how much effort you're willing to do to protect your community and society from it. Why do people just don't understand that improperly fired pottery is really really really dangerous. They may not be as careful was sort of they could be, but it's not isn't like an insurmountable obstacle. Exactly that's good knights. Let's take a break in and what's let's talk when some solutions,
Do you wanna, be the smartest fan at your watch party? Do you want to understand the game at a deeper level? Then you need to listen to and I fell university. A new weekly episode from the SB nation and apple sharp every Wednesday, our team of professors at Annabel University teach you the finer points of woodwork. One crash course at a time will break down the. What how and why of everything that went down that we subscribe to the explanation about show today and become the best fan you can be so it it sounds like one issue here is simply that dares not that much investment in even monitoring how much lead there is and and where it comes from that we we have some sense
of the levels of a sort of like contamination children are facing, but we don't really really. No, I mean is that right, yeah, that's exactly right! I mean earlier. I gave you a big round number that half of children and low and middle income countries have this blood let buffer. Obviously, we have not actually gone to all those children and measured at great. These are a kind of heroic estimates and extrapolations based on small scale studies. And monitoring. We do not understand this problem really at a global level. We dont understand you know we have some sense from small scale studies and one offs about what some of the hot spots are. Four, let contamination, but we do not have a systemic understanding of where it's coming.
What the biggest sources are in, which that it was and what we can do most easily to address it, and so they should a beautiful baseline ask here. I guess you know we people listening, wait a minute. You work in the in the nonprofit world right, but is to try to sort of elevate. This issue a little bit in the in the conversation, make more of a priority to try to understand what the scale is, because I mean, I think that if you look at the scientific literature that this is a very real direct personal health problems associated with very severe like contamination, but will be seem to see from the researchers that lower level exposure still creates serious problems for people for their for their neurological development, and so it means it.
Tension. We, the sort of external gains of cleaning up lead, are a very, very large that you're gonna have people who do better in school who commit fewer acts of violence weight and that sort of big, intractable, seeming social problems. My ameliorate too, to a considerable extent trade and that, but we should really an anguish, try huh, yeah? I think I think that's right, I mean look. I workin global health, primarily right now. The number one priority for everyone is covered and getting out of the current crisis, but I'm finally, user, and rightly so, and rightly so. That should be everyone's priority. However, in the future Looking at what are the issues we should be tackling and thinking about globally. I do think this deserves additional attention. You know, as you say, the first ask is just raise it on the agenda of that. If you look at this issue, a kind of falls between the cracks of different-
ministry is different areas: zero. You know we called it a multi sectoral problems, which is a very boring sounding words, but basically what it means Ok, I work in health. Primarily, this is not a top of mind health issue. As you know, this is not on the global health agenda, my colleague's work and education. This is not the top education issue that blunders and ministries of education care about other colleagues, work on climate or environment, while no the obviously there you know preoccupied with climate change, so it sort of falls between the crafts words, no one's problem to address it. It's no one's job to fit said or figure out the problem. It touches all these different sectors. It touches land use policy and trade and environment. In all these different areas by its once one problem to fix. I guess you know if you think about it as a health threat, the children. While you know it's not as deadly as malaria, bright exactly by its impact in the whole educational system,
yeah. He asked not an education issue, Gordon Cole, exactly, and you know what you what you hear from sunlight. He's in people as well. What are we supposed to do about it in the schools? This is it happening in the schools it happening outside of the schools. It's not it's an education problem that there is not an easy education intervention, You can do some education about sources of contamination, say: hey, try not to play, and thus smelter in your neighborhood via their is not that much you can do through the education system, so it sort of falls between the crime. But I think, you're right that the scale of the challenge and the problems is potentially enormous search again. Another one of these big round number studies that I don't put too much stock in suits. The estimate is that glow Molly phasing out leaded gasoline has benefits of two point five trillion dollars a year end,
it's about a million lives saved per year every year as a kind of cumulative benefit of phasing out lettered gasoline, and this is from the society wide benefits. The better learning that our wages, all the rest- and you know, of course knew you asked me if I talk a lot about this lead crime hypothesis. I think the literature is complicated, but I think there is a pretty compelling links between let exposure in childhood, and you know crime and other social problems about twenty years on and again, I think it's what were the space words completely speculative, because we just don't have research or data on any of this. But if you look at a map of global lead hot spots, it sent seems to overlay with some areas of in ability and non violence problems. So you see the decision lights up Somalia, young men, the northern triangle, Afghanistan
I am certainly not claiming that this is a direct causal relationship. It is completely speculative at this point, but I think it is worth paying attention
sue and trying to get some better data and information on the extent to which this might be driving, at least some of it. I mean it's each striking. You know when you I mean, I think people whose interests in general person politics. You know you hear a lot about asylum seekers from Central America these days and carefully violins. You gonna think in hazy way, while these are poor. Countries is a lot of problems, but actually like that. The levels of violence in that region of the world are extraordinary much higher than in other comparably poor parts of the world typically, and it also does seem to be a big led hotspot because of this. This traditional pottery, which you know I mean there- are lots of traditional industries, obviously all over the world, but this particular nexus of lead. Glaze is a little bit unusual. That delayed gasoline thing is crazy. I mean a bet gardeners book choked she were counts. The story when they first started putting led into gasoline
and like the guy they went to as I could go to scientific expert on this was someone who the government had contracted to work on it as a chemical weapon in where one has acknowledged that you know that was like the leading the leader led guy was a chemical weapons guy, as there are, of course, all them don't do this. It's it's a chemical up. It has now been banned as war crimes, but they just sort of went forward with it right, as well as an industrial, seven, ending cataclysmic harms. I mean, as far as we can tell in our kind of broad estimates show. Then I mean if you, if you bear down into these issues, set that you're talking bout. I mean: is this sort of more forceful steps that could be taken? I mean: does that? Does the capacity exists to impose stricter regulations on you know you waste recycling like is that is
we know that could be done in a way that effective it doesnt. Have you no big negative, secondary consequences? So I think what comes out when you start talking about where all the different sources of lead are coming from is that there is no magic bullet solution here right. It's not do this one thing in your solve the problem, but there's trouble the a lot you can do and there's probably some that's hard earned on that easier. I think tackling for good you, waste recycling is probably one of the harder problems to solve, probably getting rid of lead in tumor. It is one of the easier problems to solve, but you have to start by figuring out where what are these sources of land? We need better monitoring, we need, we need to us stand on a more systematic level where it's coming from and research. Mitigation and remediation strategies are and what most cost effective wasn't wait. I've got a further question about the tumor
because so you're, ok, so I'm the one level that seems easy in the sense that you sent doing anything useful right. It's not like this. It's like there's a big economic upside to adulterated your tumor with lead, but I mister Ellison, I'm envisioning this that it's not like officially like tumor it with lead. You know I'm on the shelves in at the store ride like it seems like you would actually be quite challenging to like force. I don't away space merchants to improve the purity of their product if its profitable for them to slip led into it or something
while these probably a multi faceted way to go about it, I think you're. The first step is sort of the supply chain. Tracing right. Where is this coming from? It might be the case that, as you know, many small space merchants all over the world, adding lad and might be the case. It is just a handful of large scale, industrial plants, where this has happened So I think until we start during that investigation and figuring out where the contamination taking place, it's really hard to say to what extent you could have a regulatory solution for it in the short term. If it's coming from industrial sources makes it a lot easier kind of choked down. The supply chain is coming from the small scale producers that makes it harder, but what you can do, as you can do a demand side intervention you can educate people say. I know you think you know bright, yellow, tumor egg is high quality, but actually you should be looking for something that looks like
different, because this isn't actually sign of quality? This is a sign of contamination and there are lots of in a public awareness campaigns targeted towards people in them Lincoln countries that have been very successful at changing behaviour, round. Some of these arrests, for example, getting people to sleep under a malaria bed nets which is not something we would normally liked You were given the option I didn't helps or promoting exclusive breastfeeding instead of formula. So there's plenty of precedent. Fur in ok changing their behaviour once their aware of health benefits, are health risks of some products. I think you could look at this from a demand side problem right and it's easy in that sense. It you're, not the unity, been asking anyone to give up any right, particularly awesome. Just like really bright, yellow turmeric, see seems kind of fine, I'm an idiot. How good the pottery mean, how difficult is it for people to sort of transition to just
under methods. There, I think, is a good question. I think it can be done, but probably they would mean some investment and support. That seems like the kind of thing you could do through aid or government financing, if you think it's an important overall social intervention the scale of investment. You would need to upgrade some kilns. Is that high, but again it
It's an awareness question right now, there's a lot of traditional pottery out there already and right that you may be want people say: ok, fine, to display this in your house. You're not gonna, get a meaningful amount of contamination by displaying this beautiful pottery in your house, but don't use it took on red, strict about the oldest stuff you have put in on the shelves exile or try to get something new. Try to get it from. Someone who, I do know is is fallen, despatch images that something people are able to tell if their sort of familiar with, but these industries I mean there's one thing that seems challenging about it. Right I mean d D, D, improperly sealed pottery, and then it gets. It looks good That's why people are still using it it doesn't. It doesnt have some like visible appearance of being broken or defective. Now, having one thing you can do is get the government of Mexico, for example, wanted to do a certification project with
inform all wars. Arches and all ceramic producer is right. It could have a program where basically co invested with the producers and upgraded killing equipment. You know educated them on the levels of heat that would be needed to pay
We feel that had some over that regulatory oversight of of that production and gave them some sort of certification that, as this is a safe producer, then you need a matching demand side intervention to say: ok, only that I from the certified after it at least, but you know you have to have to tackle head on those sites- short short sharp edges. You know I'm not on the map of a failed. We talked about when America a fair amount of, and this this kind of study in in Georgia. It seems like Afghanistan, and you mentioned, yemen- are both really serious, led hotspots. Do we know what's what's happening in those countries there obviously like famously war torn, but I don't know
Since the cause or the factor unrelated yeah, I mean, I think, it's hard to say right now. I dont think we're doing a lot of data collection in those countries on this particular issue, and so I think it's hard to say exactly what's going on and you went one things quite sad. As you do see, data on refugees admitted to the: U S and you know from Afghanistan over fifty percent of the children who come in have lead levels are above the reference level. While we see there so many problems occurring in some of these countries is challenging to sort of mega make a push for data here showing in your paper. Does this some idea an analogy sort of to the W jos framework on tobacco as as a step forward, and there was a little hard for me to get my head around because they seem like very different sorts of issues. So I went into those haven't minor.
So here is a. They are different issues, though you're sure right on. That is the way I'd free met there, both multi sectoral issues. Where he basically need you're, trying to overall create a sort of safety or increase safety and control. Over an inherently dangerous product, but this dangerous product in the case of tobacco there, just not political, will to ban it in the case of lead. It actually has important industrial application, so you're not going to be on it for for practical reasons, you actually needed in certain ways, but you need of an approach that coming from all sides to control it That's standing in the health sector, the trade sector, land use Paul's, the manufacturing, you're. Looking at these intervention coming from all sides, it's also the type of issue where the high level political commitment is really important, just getting it on people's agenda that this is something we should care about, and I think the other similar thing is that both lead poisoning and tobacco use.
Are quite similar in that they are just health socks an entire giant portions of the population with all of the second and third order effects on health and welfare. So you have these problems. They are pervasive in many countries and you really need to start chipping away at them bit by bit It's not gonna, be an overnight thing, just dance, something you need kind of all hands on deck, attacking it from all sides, and I think if we could have some international attention a treaty, a framework convention that says look. We recognise the problem. We recognise it's not an overnight solution, but we think that if you talk this from all sides, You can make a dent and you should elevate this on your political agenda. We think those are really good first step to starting the process. Also, the nice thing about ass. You see the framework convention on tobacco control.
Does include reporting and monitoring parts. So countries are supposed to report every year while back how have our regulations around, for example, not selling tobacco to children? You know we said we would be. Unless have we bandits? What are the taxation levels on cigarettes? What are the measures we ve? and help people quit smoking. Zero reporting all of this and all of a sudden you're starting to get more data, more accountability and people paying attention to this
new year over here, yeah need, I guess it's sort of like an on rail freight to trying to address a policy topic that is probably not like amenable to like it. I mean in the short term you it seems, like some aspects of this problem can be solved, but then you dont want governments to sort of say why don't want to think about lead, because I dont have a solution to the most intractable aspects of it right. If you can create some kind of framework, would people can say our aid on my gum? I'm gettin the bandwagon, I'm gonna do something. I've got some best practice here, because I mean we kept sort of mentioning that the waste as a as a thorny issue right that doesn't I mean I obviously this things you could do to sort of tighten up the regulatory framework there, but it is, and the difference with tobacco right is a net. Nothing useful, come from people. Smoking, cigarettes, sway.
I mean you know. People like it is an industry, there's lobbying this things like that, but we actually wouldn't want a situation in which you waste doesn't get recycled or that people don't have products. Not we wanted situation where its recycled recycled in a more efficient and safe way in rats. Your I mean you trying to push it up some kind of safety called bite and efficiency? I mean you know a lot of these informal recycling operations are quite an efficient, so I think I saw statistic that only about thirty percent of cobalt is recovered, roughly right, that's a very valuable material that we need for lots of new electronics and a lot of its basically not being extracted when it could be an apple of white, joining the the pollution sort of stems from the inefficiency at some level. Right. My give your if you're recovering the lead in a highly efficient way, you're not like spring round,
I think I've been hundred dont hire me to recycle yours. Dead matter is followed out. That's that's broadly, my understanding of it right is like they're. There isn't aligned incentive in the sense that, like your goal is in fact like recover the coalescence not to have people breathing the men or or dust blown all around town- and I think that is in the long term solution- is to formalize some of these inform all operation. So, as a short term measure, one thing you can do is you can set aside some land out of town? That's a safe, safer place to do this riot even provide some safety equipment, the workers who work there, so they have less exposure. So those are settling in easy things you can do on it and the law
the term you wanna formalize at you want there to be. Proper industrial machinery want those same workers, do still have their livelihoods, but to have it as part of the formal economy that is working anymore. It safe and efficient way, but that is a long term vision wrecked. They haven't. You want to make it so that its not show onerous to get a permit to do it correctly. The nobody does it, but that the stand. Words are high enough. Did it's better right? I mean I mean. Is it it's a it's a general economic development? Yes issue,
and in a lot of ways, ride like how can you get more people into a formal economy? And you know how can you have regulated workplaces that are still robust at a kind of appropriate level of of development? But that's why it's hard? Yes, but I think you know there is short term harm reduction. You can do even if it hasn't got all the waiter and even their right, I mean show me: we were talking about public education and ends up with them, and I am sure people working in in this field are aware on some level that its hazardous, but you know people don't just magically, have knowledge of exactly what the most dangerous elements are or what the
biggest safety games they could make are, and I'm sure, there's there's something you can do in terms of public education to improve people's practice. Sir, it is giving them. I mean they're doing in their backyard because that's the place they can do it right now. If you give them some land outside of town, maybe they know it's not safe to get in their backyard. They don't have an alternative. We government alternatives. They can probably figure out it safer to do it over there Children in American. You know listening to this. If you can t see him policy space somewhere like White, like what? What could we do? That would be sort of helpful it inspiring some of this kind of change. So I think the biggest thing we can do- is the high level political commitment getting this on the agenda. Again, it's not the first most pressing issue, that's covered, but if we're thinking years three and four of abiding presidency. You know he's taking a leadership position in the United States to say we have to get rid of our lead pipes right that we are also letting this go on too long. This is,
stain on our society that we continue to allow children to be exposed to the sort of poison, and we want to take the opportunity we children should be american. Children should have this exposure. We also don't think I mean children anywhere in the world should have this exposure and we want to work with other kind Three is to help make the world a better place for the next generation of young children so that they don't have this burden of basically being held back by near universal poisoning that is affecting them in all sorts of neurological, developmental and and health. So think. That's probably the biggest thing right is some sort of announcement of high level political support or you could imagine a can of. Convention of some sort summit where we talk about these issues where we come in
some sort of high level statement of intent analogy. You know a lot of it's gonna be non binding and a little wishy washy, but just getting that on the agenda, making it something that other leaders have to care about. You know when the: U S, government says something a priority: Alvis another country is still if they have to care about it to twenty twenty one. Would you vaccines, yet some some at the average. What are we need? This is not the show but, like I think, clearly, more has to be done on this. You know internationally I mean that the United States needs to do more to be involved in the in the global, covered situation. Let's get a lot of thoughts on that and you know that the dutch debt should be its own episode, but you know it.
Fully. We see the United States right. Global public health becomes a big issue because of condemning, and then you have some good momentum into might be a good opportunity to start talking about some of these other questions in a more elevated way, because you know we have- and I don't have to trumpet. Stranger was not that interested in global problems that was color. There was kind of their signature.
You know it does matter its people everywhere, and you know that I mean that we should, since I don't want to downplay the lead water pipes issue, is it's good to solve problems when you can, but will really talking about in the? U S at this point a fairly marginal kind of problem compared to the the global situation, I mean you were saying at the top right, we're down to two percent of people who have the lead cases and primarily not related to pipes at all. So you know, as on Zan your mind, you should you should take this issued words most pressing in the world. Exactly I mean again that's not to minimize the children who still are affected by LAD and United States. Our to understand. That's part of the poverty trap had generally poor children in sub standard how's egg with unregulated peeling lead paint, so it
the problem that, yes, in terms of the scale and scope, it is relatively small number as compared to what we are seeing all around the world. Ok, I've which Silverman asset for global development, and before I let you go, I mean I do want to ask. Do you have is? Is there anything? You know really must hear question I should have asked here last thoughts to leave with the world, I just want to give a little bit of a shout out to some groups that have been workings. Lastly, on this issue for a long time, pure Airth is an ngo that it has been working to try and understand the sources of this problem, identifying toxic contaminated sites and helping clean them trying to do some of this tracing, which is why we have any of this information on tumor in the first place, so they have been doing work and then also the global alliance on health in pollution, which has been trying to work out the policy level, but again they have the resources or political attention to do all it could be done in this is the great gets more eyes and attention on it. The calves richer Silverman Centre for global development that do so much
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Transcript generated on 2021-08-11.