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Annu Rev Med. 2004;55:209-22.

Lead poisoning.

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  • 1University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Understanding of lead toxicity has advanced substantially over the past three decades, and focus has shifted from high-dose effects in clinically symptomatic individuals to the consequences of exposure at lower doses that cause no symptoms, particularly in children and fetuses. The availability of more sensitive analytic methods has made it possible to measure lead at much lower concentrations. This advance, along with more refined epidemiological techniques and better outcome measures, has lowered the least observable effect level until it approaches zero. As a consequence, the segment of the population who are diagnosed with exposure to toxic levels has expanded. At the same time, environmental efforts, most importantly the removal of lead from gasoline, have dramatically reduced the amount of lead in the biosphere. The remaining major source of lead is older housing stock. Although the cost of lead paint abatement is measured in billions of dollars, the monetized benefits of such a Herculean task have been shown to far outweigh the costs.

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