, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 379–385 | Cite as

Lead Poisoning: Using Transdisciplinary Approaches to Solve an Ancient Problem

  • Mark A. PokrasEmail author
  • Michelle R. Kneeland


Conservation medicine examines the linkages among the health of people, animals, and the environment. Few issues illustrate this approach better than an examination of lead (Pb) toxicity. Lead is cheap and there is a long tradition of its use. But the toxic effects of Pb have also been recognized for many years. As a result, western societies have eliminated or greatly reduced many traditional uses of Pb, including many paints, gasoline, and solders because of threats to the health of humans and the environment. Legislation in several countries has eliminated the use of lead shot for hunting waterfowl. Despite these advances, a great many Pb products continue to be readily available. For example, wildlife agencies recognize that angling and shooting sports deposit thousands of tons of Pb into the environment each year. In recent years, our knowledge of the lethal and sublethal effects of Pb has grown dramatically. This discussion reviews the effects of lead on wildlife, humans, and domestic animals. It also discusses the importance of bringing together all interest groups to find safe alternatives, to develop new educational and policy initiatives, to eliminate many current uses of Pb, and to clean up existing problems.


lead toxics public health conservation medicine 



We sincerely thank Dr. Joann Lindenmayer for her constructive comments on this manuscript. With their thought provoking discussions, many people have contributed to the development of our thinking on this issue, including: Joy Onasch, Harry Vogel, Rawson Wood, Andrew Major; and Drs. Herbert Needleman, Ellen Silbergeld, Erica Miller, Milton Friend, Vernon Thomas, and J. Christopher Franson. Our work has been supported in part by the Natural Areas Wildlife program of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife Clinic and Center for Conservation Medicine, Cummings School of Veterinary MedicineTufts UniversityNorth GraftonUSA

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