Adverse Effects of Low Lead Level Exposure

Beginning in the mid-1970's, the IDDRC at Children's Hospital became the site of a multidisciplinary longitudinal study of the adverse effects of concentrations of lead below previously accepted exposure levels. Drs. Alan Leviton and David Bellinger were the key figures in that work. The results indicated that lead has an adverse biological effect at much lower levels than those previously thought to be acceptable and that the adverse effects do not improve with time (Genetics Resource, 1988; Research in Infant Assessment, 1989; N. Engl. J. Med., 1990). These and other studies resulted in a national effort to reduce environmental lead, and over the years the lowering of blood lead levels in the population has been achieved. This work has led to expanded interest by Dr. Bellinger in the roles of exogenous environmental toxins as well as endogenous insults in the genesis of developmental disabilities. His recent work has focused on exposure to mercury in dental amalgams and in deleterious neurocognitive effects of low levels of arsenic and manganese.