Lead Poisoning...A Preventable Tragedy

Last Editorial Review: 7/23/2002

Lead poisoning is entirely preventable.

  • However, nearly 1 million children living in the United States have lead levels in their blood that are high enough to cause irreversible damage to their health.
  • Lead poisoning affects virtually every system in the body, and often occurs with no distinctive symptoms.
  • Lead can damage a child's central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive system and, at higher levels, can cause coma, convulsions, and death.
  • Even low levels of lead are harmful and are associated with decreased intelligence, impaired neurobehavioral development, decreased stature and growth, and impaired hearing acuity.
  • Peeling lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning among children.
  • Data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that the percentage of U.S. children with elevated blood lead levels has dropped from 88.2% in the late 1970s to 4.4% in the early 1990s.

This information is provided with the kind permission of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). For more information about lead poisoning, please see the entry to Lead Poisoning in the MedicineNet Medical Dictionary.

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