June 26, 1972

Childhood Lead Poisoning

Author Affiliations

research associate AMA Department of Environmental, Public, and Occupational Health

JAMA. 1972;220(13):1737-1738. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200130065016

The occurrence of lead poisoning among children due to ingestion of flakes of lead-containing paint is sad testimony to our sense of priorities. Sad, because its etiology, pathogenesis, pathophysiology, and epidemiology have been known for years. And sad because it is an entirely preventable disease.

Approximately 400,000 American children have elevated blood lead levels, according to the Public Health Service, and some 16,000 children now require treatment for lead poisoning. This year an estimated 200 children will die and another 800 will be so severely injured as to require permanent care. Approximately 3,200 will suffer moderate to severe brain damage, and will require years of special care.1

High-risk areas for lead poisoning are slums, where old dilapidated housing, with peeling, lead-containing paint is prevalent. Children between the ages of 1 and 6 years are the main victims, with more than 85% in the 1- to 3-yearold group.

Though lead poisoning