July 1966

Nephropathy in Chronic Lead Poisoning

Author Affiliations


From the departments of medicine and pathology, University of Alabama Medical Center and the Renal Research Laboratory, Veterans Administration Hospital, Birmingham.

Arch Intern Med. 1966;118(1):17-29. doi:10.1001/archinte.1966.00290130019005

THE ACUTE symptoms of lead poisoning were recognized by Nikander as early as the second century, BC, and they were correctly attributed to "cerussa" (white lead).1 However, the "Devonshire colic" of 1724 was initially thought to be an epidemic pestilence. Tronchin correctly identified lead in the drinking water of Amsterdam as the cause of the epidemic colic of that city in 1757, and Baker showed ten years later that the cider made in Devon contained large amounts of lead, which produced the colic.1 During the 200 years since, the literature has been replete with studies of lead poisoning, and although the industrial sources have been largely eliminated, the home brewing of wine2,3 or whiskey4,5 has continued to be a considerable source of chronic lead absorption in some areas.

There has been universal agreement about the acute symptoms of plumbism, but the nature of the delayed effects remains controversial. In 1863

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