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May 26, 1962


JAMA. 1962;180(8):687-688. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050210049015

The encephalopathy that occurs in young children due to lead intoxication is essentially a problem of big cities with slum areas where deterioration of housing has occurred. Resultant flaking paint on walls, ceilings, and woodwork and cracking, crumbling plaster which is soaked over the years by repeated application of lead-containing paint and which is readily available to the prying fingers of toddlers is consumed by these youngsters. Thus lead poisoning is closely linked with the problem of pica.1 Occasional cases due to burning battery encasings are also seen, but the vast majority are due to ingestion. Under the influence of heat and humidity and also probably from ultraviolet ray exposure during the hot summer months, stored lead is mobilized from the bones and distributed to the soft tissues of the body. Nerve cells, being highly susceptible to this poison, are frequently affected with the resultant violent and lethal

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