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September 27, 2021

It’s Time to End Lead Poisoning in the United States

Author Affiliations
  • 1Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good, Global Observatory on Pollution and Health, Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Pediatr. Published online September 27, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.3525

The United States has made extraordinary progress during the past 50 years in reducing children’s exposure to lead. In the early 1970s, lead was ubiquitous in the US environment.1 It was marketed aggressively by the lead industry2 (Figure 1) and was used in paint, water pipes, and plumbing fixtures. More than 100 000 tons of tetraethyl lead were added each year to gasoline to improve automotive engine performance, and lead contamination of air, soil, and dust in urban centers and along highways was extensive.3 Scientists employed by the lead industry claimed that lead was an essential trace element, necessary for children’s nutrition.4

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