Unraveling the chronic toxicity of lead: An essential priority for environmental health

Andrew C. Todd, James G. Wetmur, Jacqueline M. Moline, James H. Godbold, Stephen M. Levin, Philip J. Landrigan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Although population exposure to lead has declined, chronic lead toxicity remains a major public health problem in the United States affecting millions of children and adults. Important gaps exist in knowledge of the pathophysiology of chronic lead intoxication. These gaps have impeded development of control strategies. To close current gaps in knowledge of chronic lead toxicity, we propose an integrated, multidisciplinary, marker-based research program. This program combines a) direct measurement of individual lead burden by 109Cd X-ray fluorescence analysis of lead in bone, b) determination of ALA-D phenotype, an index of individual susceptibility to lead, and c) assessments of subclinical injury produced by lead in the kidneys, nervous system and, reproductive organs. Data from this research will provide answers to questions of great public health importance: a) Are current environmental and occupational standards adequate to prevent chronic lead intoxication? b) Is lead mobilized from the skeleton during pregnancy or lactation to cause fetal toxicity? c) Is lead mobilized from bone during menopause to cause neurotoxicity? d) What is the significance of genetic variation in determining susceptibility to lead? e) What is the contribution of lead to hypertension, renal disease, chronic neurodegenerative disease or declining sperm counts? f) Is chelation therapy effective in reducing body lead burden in persons with chronic overexposure to lead?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-146
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • ALAD
  • Lead
  • Nephrotoxicity
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Reproductive toxicity
  • Skeletal lead


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