Controlling A Childhood Menace

Lead poisoning poses the biggest environmental threat to the young

Sitting on an examining table at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, three-year-old Shawntea West is smiling and alert, apparently in excellent health. But she is afflicted with the most common of the serious childhood diseases. The mumps? Viral meningitis? Measles? Whooping cough? The answer, says Dr. Herbert Needleman as he draws blood from her arm, is lead poisoning.

During a routine checkup two weeks earlier, Shawntea was found to have a level of 25 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. If that toxic level is maintained, it could affect her mental capabilities and result in grave behavioral and physical problems....

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