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FEATURE ARTICLE

Lead in the Inner Cities

Policies to reduce children's exposure to lead may be overlooking a major source of lead in the environment

Howard Mielke

Figure 5. Two different-sized lead particlesClick to Enlarge Image

Early in the 1990s a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called lead poisoning "one of the most common pediatric health problems in the United States today," but added that it was entirely preventable. To prevent poisoning, our author argues, one must accurately assess the sources of lead. Since lead was removed from gasoline before 1980, most people assume that old paint and old plumbing are the primary sources of lead today. Not so, says the author, who finds lead in greatest abundance in soil, primarily in the impoverished areas of large cities. The soil, he says, absorbed and retained the metal from leaded gasoline. The revised assessment leads the author to propose new policies for preventing the poisoning that leaves its young victims intellectually impaired.


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