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Mutat Res. 2008 Jul-Aug;659(1-2):166-75. doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2008.03.003. Epub 2008 Mar 20.

Global approach to reducing lead exposure and poisoning.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, NE, Mailstop F-64, Atlanta, GA 30333, United States.


Lead poisoning is an important environmental disease that can have life-long adverse health effects. Most susceptible are children, and most commonly exposed are those who are poor and live in developing countries. Studies of children's blood-lead levels (BLLs) are showing cognitive impairment at increasingly lower BLLs. Lead is dangerous at all levels in children. The sources of lead exposure vary among and within countries depending on past and current uses. Sources of lead may be from historic contamination, recycling old lead products, or from manufacturing new products. In all countries that have banned leaded gasoline, average population BLLs have declined rapidly. In many developing countries where leaded gasoline is no longer used, many children and workers are exposed to fugitive emissions and mining wastes. Unexpected lead threats, such as improper disposal of electronics and children's toys contaminated with lead, continue to emerge. The only medical treatment available is chelation, which can save lives of persons with very high BLLs. However, chelating drugs are not always available in developing countries and have limited value in reducing the sequelae of chronic low dose lead exposure. Therefore, the best approach is to prevent exposure to lead. Because a key strategy for preventing lead poisoning is to identify and control or eliminate lead sources, this article highlights several major sources of lead poisoning worldwide. In addition, we recommend three primary prevention strategies for lead poisoning: identify sources, eliminate or control sources, and monitor environmental exposures and hazards.

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