Cost Benefits of Lead Cleanup

It's difficult to put firm numbers to the costs and benefits of lead abatement. But for a rough idea, let's start with the two biggest costs. Nevin estimates that there are perhaps 16 million pre-1960 houses with lead-painted windows, and replacing them all would cost something like $10 billion per year over 20 years. Soil cleanup in the hardest-hit urban neighborhoods is tougher to get a handle on, with estimates ranging from $2 to $36 per square foot. A rough extrapolation from Mielke's estimate to clean up New Orleans suggests that a nationwide program might cost another $10 billion per year.

We can either get rid of the remaining lead, or we can wait 20 years and then lock up all the kids who've turned into criminals. So in round numbers that's about $20 billion per year for two decades. But the benefits would be huge. Let's just take a look at the two biggest ones. By Mielke and Zahran's estimates, if we adopted the soil standard of a country like Norway (roughly 100 ppm or less), it would bring about $30 billion in annual returns from the cognitive benefits alone (higher IQs, and the resulting higher lifetime earnings). Cleaning up old windows might double this. And violent crime reduction would be an even bigger benefit. Estimates here are even more difficult, but Mark Kleiman suggests that a 10 percent drop in crime—a goal that seems reasonable if we get serious about cleaning up the last of our lead problem—could produce benefits as high as $150 billion per year.

Put this all together and the benefits of lead cleanup could be in the neighborhood of $200 billion per year. In other words, an annual investment of $20 billion for 20 years could produce returns of 10-to-1 every single year for decades to come. Those are returns that Wall Street hedge funds can only dream of.


While it would cost tens of billions to clean up lead in the environment, it would generate a hundred billion in health benefits.

Folksonomies: environmentalism public health regulation

/business and industrial/business operations/human resources/compensation and benefits (0.499554)
/finance/investing/funds/hedge fund (0.467583)
/society/crime (0.454005)

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Mielke:Person (0.901640 (negative:-0.440157)), windows:OperatingSystem (0.751556 (negative:-0.327042)), Mark Kleiman:Person (0.613881 (positive:0.304487)), hedge funds:FieldTerminology (0.582246 (neutral:0.000000)), Nevin:Person (0.569315 (neutral:0.000000)), New Orleans:City (0.527288 (negative:-0.440157)), Zahran:Company (0.497614 (neutral:0.000000)), Norway:Country (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), 20 years:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), $10 billion:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), $20 billion:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), $150 billion:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), $200 billion:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), $30 billion:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), two decades:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), 10 percent:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), $36:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000)), $2:Quantity (0.496867 (neutral:0.000000))

Cleanliness (0.916750): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Cost-benefit analysis (0.876990): dbpedia
Cost (0.875569): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Crime (0.857200): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Costs (0.787402): dbpedia
Hygiene (0.690359): dbpedia | freebase
Roughness (0.611226): dbpedia
Orders of magnitude (0.610097): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 America's Real Criminal Element: Lead
Periodicals>Magazine Article:  Drum, Kevin (01/2013), America's Real Criminal Element: Lead, Mother Jones, January/February 2013, Retrieved on 2013-07-24
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: environment welfare regulation


    11 AUG 2011

     The Science of Social Welfare

    Social Welfare grew from a series of studies that determined children and babies who were malnourished or overly stressed suffered lifetimes of problems behaviorally and economically.