Journal article Open Access
Meyer, Pamela A.; McGeehin, Michael A.; Falk, Henry
Childhood lead poisoning is an important, preventable environmental disease affecting millions of children around the world. The effects of lead are well known and range from delayed and adversely affected neurodevelopment to severe health outcomes including seizures, coma, and death. This article reviews the childhood effects of lead poisoning, the approach being taken to the problem in the United States, and the obstacles faced by developing nations in dealing with lead exposure. The United States has attacked the childhood lead poisoning problem by attempting to eliminate sources of exposure, including gasoline, solder in water pipes and cans, and industrial emissions. These actions have resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of children with elevated blood lead levels in the United States over the last two decades. However, many developing countries are just beginning to address the problem. Successful efforts will need to incorporate epidemiologic methods, source identification, enforced regulations, and a long-term government commitment to eliminating lead as a threat to the next generation of children.