This study quantitatively assessed the population-wide lead poisoning conditions in Kabwe, Zambia, a town with severe lead pollution. While existing data have reported concerning blood lead levels (BLLs) of residents in pollution hotspots, the data representing the entire population are lacking. Further, selection bias is a concern. Given the lack of compulsory testing schemes, BLLs have been observed from voluntary participants in blood sampling surveys, but such data can represent higher or lower BLLs than the population average because of factors simultaneously affecting participation and BLLs. To illustrate the lead poisoning conditions of the population, we expanded the focus of our surveys and then econometrically estimated the BLLs of individuals representing the population, including those not participating in blood sampling, using background geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic information. The estimated population mean BLL was 11.9 μg/dL (11.6–12.1, 95% CI), lower than existing data because of our wide focus and correction of selection bias. However, the scale of lead poisoning remained immense and 74.9% of residents had BLLs greater than 5 μg/dL, the standard reference level for lead poisoning. Our estimates provide a deeper understanding of the problem and a foundation for policy intervention designs.

Peter Hangoma

Post Doctoral Researcher

Recent CMI publications: