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Key Concepts
  • Lead poisoning is a completely preventable disease.
  • No safe blood lead level (BLL) threshold for children has been identified.
  • Blood lead levels once considered safe are now demonstrated to be hazardous.
  • Children of all races and ethnic origins are at risk of lead toxicity throughout the United States.
  • Lead may cause irreversible neurological damage as well as renal disease, cardiovascular effects, and reproductive toxicity.
  • Lead is one of the most commonly found hazards at Superfund sites.
  • This case study is focused on lead exposure in the United States; exposures globally may vary.
  • Primary prevention of lead exposure is the most important and significant strategy to protect children and adults from lead exposures.
  • Families, service providers, advocates, and public officials need to be educated on primary prevention of lead exposure in homes and other facilities occupied by children so that lead hazards are eliminated before exposure occurs.
About This and Other Case Studies in Environmental Medicine

This educational case study document is one in a series Other ATSDR of self-instructional modules designed to increase the Case Studies primary health care provider’s knowledge of hazardous in substances in the environment and to promote medical Environmental practices that aid in the prevention, evaluation and care Medicine of potentially exposed patients. The complete series of ATSDR Case Studies in Environmental Medicine is located on the ATSDR Web site at URL: In addition, the downloadable PDF versionpdf icon of this educational series and other environmental medicine materials provides content in an electronic, printable format, especially for those who may lack adequate Internet service.


We gratefully acknowledge the work of the medical writers, editors, and reviewers in producing this educational resource. Contributors to this version of the “ATSDR Case Studies in Environmental Medicine: Lead Toxicity” manuscript are listed below.

Please Note: Each content expert for this case study has indicated that there is no conflict of interest that would bias the case study content.

CDC/ATSDR Author(s): Oscar Tarragó, MD, MPH; Mary Jean Brown, ScD.

CDC/ATSDR Planners: John Doyle, MPA; Diana Cronin.

CDC/ATSDR Commenters: Kimberly Gehle, MD, MPH; Germania Pinheiro, MD, MSc, PhD; Michael Hatcher, DrPH.

Peer Reviewers: Henry Falk, MD, MPH; Dan Middleton, MD; María José Moll, MD, MSc. (PEHSU Uruguay).

Disclaimer and Disclosure


The state of knowledge regarding the treatment of patients potentially exposed to hazardous substances in the environment is constantly evolving and is often uncertain. In developing its educational products, ATSDR has made a diligent effort to ensure the accuracy and the currency of the presented information. ATSDR, however, makes no claim that the environmental medicine and health education resources discussed in these products comprehensively address all possible situations related to various substances. The products are intended for educational use to build the knowledge of physicians and other health professionals in assessing the conditions and managing the treatment of patients potentially exposed to hazardous substances. The products are not a substitute for a health-care provider’s professional judgment. Please interpret the environmental medicine and the health education resources in light of specific information regarding the patient and in conjunction with other medical authorities.

Use of trade names in ATSDR products is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine
Environmental Medicine Branch