TBILISI, Georgia, 23 April 2019. In Georgia, 41 per cent of children have blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL), and among them, 16 per cent of children have blood lead levels of greater than or equal to 10 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL). 25 per cent of children have blood lead levels between 5 - 10 μg/dL. This data, presented today, is from a nationally representative study measuring blood lead levels among children.
The study was conducted between September and December 2018 as part of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), the largest household survey worldwide in which Georgia participated. During the study, samples of venous blood were collected from 1,578 randomly selected children from 2-7 years of age across Georgia, providing nationally representative indicators of lead prevalence. The blood samples were sent to the Italian National Institute of Health, one of the leading public health institutions in Europe, where they were analyzed by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP MS), the most accurate method for lead testing.
“UNICEF in partnership with nine other donor organizations supported the Government of Georgia, specifically GeoStat and the NCDC, in carrying out the survey to define the magnitude of the problem”, says Gottfried Hanne, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Georgia. “We appreciate the acknowledgment of the problem by the Government, as well as the Government’s strong commitment to undertake efforts to develop short-term and long-term response strategies and actions. Identification of the sources of lead exposure should be the next step in addressing the problem”, added Hanne.
There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe for human beings. Yet, a measurement of 5 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL) of whole venous blood is the reference level at or above which the WHO recommends initiating public health actions.
The Government is planning to develop a multiyear plan envisaging identification of the major sources of lead exposure, and developing short, medium, as well as long term measures to neutralize, isolate and manage lead contaminated sites. The Government also plans to prevent market circulation of lead contaminated products and conduct public awareness campaigns.
The MICS was implemented in Georgia by the National Statistics Office (GeoStat) with technical and financial support from UNICEF and the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC). Significant financial and/or in kind contributions to the survey are also provided by SIDA, USAID, AFD, SDC, UNFPA, UNDP, WHO, the World Bank, and the Italian National Institute of Health.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.