Lead poisoning

West J Med. 1994 Aug;161(2):153-9.


Lead poisoning is the most common disease of environmental origin in the United States today. Adult lead poisoning results primarily from exposure by inhalation in the workplace. Pediatric lead poisoning results principally from the ingestion of lead from environmental media, including paint chips, dust, soil, drinking water, ceramics, and medications. Lead is toxic to many organ systems, among them developing erythrocytes, the kidneys, and the nervous system. Lead-induced toxicity to the central nervous system causes delayed development, diminished intelligence, and altered behavior. In young children, this effect has been demonstrated convincingly to occur at blood lead levels between 10 and 20 micrograms per dl. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per dl or higher be considered evidence of increased lead absorption, and the National Academy of Sciences has concurred in that recommendation. Unresolved issues in need of further study include the frequency of screening young children for lead, the question of whether women should be offered screening for lead before conceiving a pregnancy, the role of x-ray fluorescence analysis in assessing lead in bone, and the appropriate legislative response of the United States government to lead-based paint abatement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Burden
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Environmental Pollution / adverse effects
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / metabolism
  • Lead / pharmacokinetics
  • Lead Poisoning* / diagnosis
  • Lead Poisoning* / epidemiology
  • Lead Poisoning* / etiology
  • Lead Poisoning* / metabolism
  • Lead Poisoning* / prevention & control
  • Mass Screening
  • Preconception Care
  • Research
  • United States


  • Lead