Bangalore, February 8-10, 1999

The largest ever international conference on lead poisoning prevention and

treatment was held at Hotel Ashok, Bangalore, India from February 8-10, 1999. The event was organized and hosted by The George Foundation, and was co-sponsored by The World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The co-organizers of the conference were the Ministry for Health and the Ministry for Environment, Government of India, and Friends of Lead-Free Children, Inc., USA.

The "Bangalore Conference" is hailed by many as the turning point in the fight against lead poisoning in developing countries. 450 delegates attended the conference from 20 countries, including over 50 experts from developed countries, and several scientists from major Indian research institutions.

The main goal of the conference was "to develop a plan that can be implemented at a national levels by developing countries for the prevention and treatment of lead poisoning". This practical approach to a scientific conference involved the participation of administrators, government officials, medical and environmental professionals, and industry experts including heads of oil and automobile companies in India. The conference coincided with the announcement by the Indian Oil Corporation, Ltd. that leaded petrol will be phased out entirely by 31 March, 2000.

The conference ceremony was presided over by the Governor of Karnataka State, Mr. Alam Khan. Dr. Abraham George used the occasion to release the conclusions of Project Lead-Free, the national blood screening study covering 22,000 subjects, conducted by The George Foundation during 1998-1999 in 7 major Indian cities. The results of the study showed that on the average over 50% of the children below the age of 12 years in urban environments in India had unacceptable blood levels of 10 mcg/dl or more. Further, nearly 13% of the children below the age of 12 years had seriously elevated blood lead levels of 20 mcg/dl or more. Given the urban child population of over 100 million in India, over 50 million had unacceptable blood lead levels. More details of the study were presented later by Dr. T. Venkatesh of St. Johns Medical College and Hospital, Bangalore.

The conference sessions included over 20 lectures/presentations and 13 panel discussions among experts. Recommendations and conclusions from these sessions were recorded, while the entire proceedings were fully taped. An executive committee of 12 experts and chaired by Dr. Abraham George will study the recommendations that have been made by participants at the conference. The committee will prepare a "white-paper" making specific recommendations for implementation at a national level before the end of May 1999. This paper will be submitted to governments of developing countries and other major institutions around the world.

May 15, 2000: Unleaded petrol is introduced throughout India as of April 1, 2000.  The George Foundation and the International Conference on Lead Poisoning are credited with motivating the oil companies and the government to introduce unleaded petrol as per the commitment made at the conference.

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