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May 11, 2005

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention: Too Little, Too Late

JAMA. 2005;293(18):2274-2276. doi:10.1001/jama.293.18.2274

One hundred years ago, Gibson described an epidemic of childhood lead poisoning from the ingestion of lead-based paint.1 He showed that paint was the primary source of lead intake for these children by measuring lead on wipe samples collected from porch railings and houses that had recently been painted. Gibson speculated that educational efforts would prevent lead poisoning because many children with lead poisoning were reported to bite their nails or suck their fingers.1 Four years later, after their educational efforts failed to prevent lead poisoning, Gibson’s colleague, Turner, concluded, “Prevention is easy. Paint containing lead should never be employed . . . where children, especially young children, are accustomed to play.”2