Lead toxicity update. A brief review

Med Sci Monit. 2005 Oct;11(10):RA329-36. Epub 2005 Sep 26.


Lead is a metal which has been associated with human activities for the last 6000 years. In ancient civilizations, uses of lead included the manufacture of kitchen utensils, trays, and other decorative articles. However, lead is also toxic to humans, with the most deleterious effects on the hemopoietic, nervous, reproductive systems and the urinary tract. The main sources of lead exposure are paints, water, food, dust, soil, kitchen utensils, and leaded gasoline. The majority of cases of lead poisoning are due to oral ingestion and absorption through the gut. Lead poisoning in adults occurs more frequently during exposure in the workplace and primarily involves the central nervous system. Symptoms of hemopoietic system involvement include microcytic, hypochromic anemia with basophilic stippling of the erythrocytes. Hyperactivity, anorexia, decreased play activity, low intelligence quotient, and poor school performance have been observed in children with high lead levels. Lead crosses the placenta during pregnancy and has been associated with intrauterine death, prematurity, and low birth weight. In 1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA redefined elevated blood lead levels as those > or = 10 microg/dl and recommended a new set of guidelines for the treatment of lead levels > or =15 microg/dl.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / pharmacokinetics
  • Lead / toxicity*
  • Lead Poisoning / drug therapy
  • Lead Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Lead Poisoning / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Pregnancy


  • Chelating Agents
  • Lead