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June 27, 2007

Getting the Lead OutThe Rhode Island Lead Paint Trials and Their Impact on Children's Health

JAMA. 2007;297(24):2773-2775. doi:10.1001/jama.297.24.2773

Like many pediatricians, I first encountered the medical nightmare called childhood lead poisoning during internship. Twenty years or so ago, I cared for dozens of children whose futures had been hijacked by a stealthy toxin lurking in the walls of their homes.

All of those patients had sustained enough physical damage from lead poisoning to warrant lengthy courses of chelating agents. I can still hear the yelps of these kids as they endured additional batteries of painful, deep intramuscular injections. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this enterprise was that once their medical course was completed, these children returned to the same lead-infested homes in which their troubles had begun. Soon enough, many were discovered to have what we wistfully called a “lead relapse” and readmitted for another round of medication.

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