Prevention of lead toxicity in US children

Ambul Pediatr. 2003 Jan-Feb;3(1):27-36. doi: 10.1367/1539-4409(2003)003<0027:poltiu>;2.


During the past 2 decades, the proportion of US children who have blood lead concentrations of 10 microg/dL or higher declined by over 80% after the elimination of leaded gasoline and lead solder from canned foods, and a ban on leaded paint used in housing and other consumer products. Fatalities and symptomatic lead poisoning are now rare. Residential lead hazards, which are exceedingly difficult to control, are currently the major source of lead intake for children. Undue lead exposure has retreated into 2 major risk groups; impoverished children who live in older, poorly maintained rental housing and more affluent children who live in older housing undergoing renovation. Despite the dramatic decline in children's blood lead levels, lead toxicity remains epidemic among impoverished children who live in older rental housing, especially those who live in the northeastern and midwestern regions of the United States. There are increasing data linking lead exposure with other systemic effects including delinquency, dental caries, and learning problems. Moreover, there is evidence indicating that there is no discernible threshold for lead-associated cognitive deficits. Thus, it is increasingly important to shift our efforts toward the primary prevention of childhood lead exposure from residential hazards. This article reviews the epidemiology and control of childhood lead exposure, focusing especially on steps necessary to shift toward primary prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lead Poisoning / prevention & control*
  • United States