Lead is an element that has no known physiologic function in humans but adversely affects a variety of fundamental biochemical processes. A large body of evidence shows adverse health effects of lead in children at levels common in populations around the world. Acute lead poisoning with encephalopathy, though infrequent, is life-threatening, requiring timely and aggressive treatment. It should be considered in the differential diagnosis of any unexplained illness that includes anemia, seizures, lethargy, abdominal pain, or recurrent vomiting. Many more children are harmed by chronic, subclinical effects of low-level lead exposure that include impaired cognitive development, adverse effects on behavior, subtle impairment of hearing acuity, and reduced height. Available evidence indicates that the only effective interventions to prevent low level lead toxicity are those that control lead exposure. The English version of this paper is available at: http://www.insp.mx/salud/index.html.