• Editorial

Getting the lead out: Can iron help?


McGeehin, M. (2003). Getting the lead out: Can iron help? Journal of Pediatrics, 142(1), 3-4. DOI: 10.1067/mpd.2003.mpd0310


Lead poisons children; extremely high levels can be devastating and may lead to coma and death. Even moderate levels can create a long-term negative effect on a child's neurocognitive development. These facts have been known for decades. Recently, however, research has indicated that lead affects children at much lower levels than was previously thought. Study results have indicated that even levels of ?10 ?g/dL may be associated with negative neurobehavioral and cognitive effects in children.1

The good news is that throughout the past 25 years in the United States, lead levels in children have decreased dramatically. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), Phase 2 (1991-1994), showed that average blood lead levels in children ?5 years old have decreased 80% since the late 1970s.2 The 1999 NHANES data show a continuation of that trend, with the geometric mean decreasing from 2.7 ?g/dL in NHANES III to 2.0 ?g/dL in 1999.3