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Childhood lead poisoning: the torturous path from science to policy *

The long history of lead poisoning provides many lessons about the process by which scientific knowledge is translated into public health policy. In the United States, lead was added to paint and to gasoline in enormous quantities long after medical evidence clearly showed that excessive lead exposure caused considerable morbidity in the population. This article discusses some of the factors that contributed to the slow pace of efforts to address this problem, including the ubiquity and magnitude of lead exposure during much of the twentieth century, which produced a distorted notion about the blood lead level that can be considered “normal”; the prevailing model of disease during this period, notably the novelty of the concept of subclinical disease; the fact that childhood lead poisoning affected mostly families that were politically and economically disenfranchised, fostering a “blame the victim” attitude; and that controlling lead exposure would have impeded efforts to achieve other desirable goals, illustrating the role that value trade-offs often play in policy decisions.

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As with any procedure, there could be pain or other substantial risks involved. These concerns should be discussed with your health care provider prior to any treatment so that you have proper informed consent and understand that there are no guarantees to healing.

THE INFORMATION IN THIS WEBSITE IS OFFERED FOR GENERAL EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT IMPLY OR GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE. No Doctor/Patient relationship shall be deemed to have arisen simply by reading the information contained on these pages, and you should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your medical treatment before undergoing any sort of treatment or therapy.

Published on 04-28-2009
Authors: David C. Bellinger1 and Andrew M. Bellinger2
Source: J. Clin. Invest. 116(4),: 853-857 (2006),. doi:10.1172/JCI28232.