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September 6, 1985

Poison in the Pot: The Legacy of Lead

Author Affiliations

California Department of Health Services Sacramento


by Richard P. Wedeen, 274 pp, 57 illus, $24.95, Carbondale, III, Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.

JAMA. 1985;254(9):1227. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360090119036

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


One of the most useful of metals, lead has been mined and worked by man since antiquity. Likewise, lead poisoning, or plumbism, has also been known since prehistoric times and is one of the oldest known afflictions of mankind.

This book presents an entertaining historical account of lead poisoning and its impact on politics, social affairs, and medicine. Divided into four chapters, it includes a variety of illustrations that accent the lively prose. The bibliography includes more than 800 references, most of which are in English, and certainly provides a useful entree into the voluminous literature on lead poisoning.

The book touches on a wide array of topics, but it primarily focuses on lead nephropathy and saturnine gout, especially the association of these conditions with alcoholic beverages that have been intentionally adulterated or inadvertently contaminated with lead. Although some readers may quibble over the accuracy of certain details and historical