1 minute read

Lead Poisoning

Lead is an environmental toxin that can cause mental retardation, brain damage, or death in children. Young children are particularly at risk because they can accidentally eat leaded paint chips or breathe lead-contaminated dust. Although lead-based paint for household use has been banned in the United States since 1977, deteriorated older houses remain important sources. Once inside the body, lead affects the brain, heart, liver, kidney, and blood. Initially only high measurable blood lead levels (<60 micrograms/deciliter or[.mu]g/dL) associated with seizures, coma, or death were recognized as lead poisoning; learning and behavior problems have been shown at lower levels (10-20 [.mu]g/dL). Although national surveys have shown decreases in blood lead levels in children one to five years of age from 88 percent during 1976-1980 to 4 percent during 1991-1994, poor young minority children in inner cities remain at risk for significant exposure. Treatment consists of eliminating lead from the home environment, adding iron to the diet, and, if necessary, providing medications to remove lead from the body.


American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Environmental Health. "Screening for Elevated Blood Levels." Pediatrics 101 (1998):1072-1078.

"Blood Lead Levels in Young Children—United States and Selected States, 1996-1999." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 49 (2000):1133-1137.

Hwang, Mi Young, Richard Glass, and Jeff Molter. " JAMA Patient Page: Protect Your Child Against Lead Poisoning." Journal of the American Medical Association 281 (1999):2406.

Markowitz, Morri. "Lead Poisoning." Pediatrics in Review 21(2000):327-335.

John I. Takayama

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 5