Lead and Neuropsychological Function in Children: Progress and Problems in Establishing Brain-Behavior Relationships

  • David Bellinger
Part of the Advances in Child Neuropsychology book series (CHILDNEUROPSYCH, volume 3)


Lead is a ubiquitous environmental pollutant whose contribution to the pathogenesis of numerous human diseases has long been recognized, albeit not completely understood (NRC, 1993). Surprisingly, knowledge about lead’s devastating influence on the developing central nervous system dates only from the end of the nineteenth century (Gibson, Love, Hardine, Bancroft, & Turner, 1892). In their case series, a benchmark investigation in this literature, Byers and Lord (1943) demonstrated that lead poisoning need not progress to frank encephalopathy (i.e., cerebral edema and hemorrhage) for children to experience severe intellectual and behavioral sequelae. This discovery spawned worry over “low-level” or subclinical lead exposures, those within the range of exposures that may be incurred by residence in a modern industrial setting but not high enough to produce classic symptoms of lead poisoning. The hypothesis that such exposures impair children’s mental function has been a topic of spirited, often acrimonious debate since the 1970s.


Lead Level Lead Exposure Blood Lead Level Lead Poisoning Neuropsychological Function 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Bellinger

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