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July 27, 1994

Childhood Lead Poisoning in 1994

Author Affiliations

From the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.

JAMA. 1994;272(4):315-316. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520040077045

Lead poisoning is one of the worst environmental threats to children in the United States and is also entirely preventable.1 An increased understanding of the adverse effects of lead poisoning—neurological, endocrinological, hematological, reproductive, and growth—resulted in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowering the acceptable blood lead level three times in the last 20 years.2

The article by Pirkle et al3 documents the dramatic decrease in blood lead levels from 0.62 to 0.14 μmol/L (12.8 to 2.8 μg/dL) between 1976 to 1980 and 1988 to 1991. Most significantly, the percentage of US children aged 1 to 5 years with blood lead levels 0.48 μmol/L (10 μg/dL) or greater decreased from 88.2% to 8.9%. Decreases in blood lead levels occurred for all age and income groups. This is surely one of the most remarkable public health achievements of the decade and is undoubtedly the result of government