We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Patient Page |

Lead Poisoning FREE

Sarah Ringold, MD, Writer; Cassio Lynm, MA, Illustrator; Richard M. Glass, MD, Editor
JAMA. 2005;293(18):2304. doi:10.1001/jama.293.18.2304.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Lead poisoning is the presence of an elevated level of lead in the blood. It is estimated that about 2% of children younger than 6 years in the United States have elevated blood lead levels. Lead enters the blood and other organs primarily through the lungs (from breathing contaminated air) and the digestive tract (from eating contaminated substances). Lead can have damaging effects on any organ in the body, but it is particularly damaging to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and red blood cells (cells that carry oxygen in the blood). Lead is toxic to both adults and children. It is particularly dangerous for children younger than 6 years because they are still growing and their nervous system is still developing. Even a slightly increased blood lead level may have toxic effects, so it is important to see your doctor immediately if you believe you or your family to be at risk. The May 11, 2005, issue of JAMA includes an article that reports rates of follow-up testing for children with high blood lead levels in the state of Michigan.


  • Paint dust and paint chips from lead-based paint (used most commonly in houses built before 1978)

  • Contaminated soil

  • Water that has passed through lead pipes

  • Food that has been stored in lead-glazed earthenware

  • Some hobby materials, such as stained glass and fishing weights

  • Certain toys and jewelry

  • Some preparations of traditional remedies


  • Fatigue

  • Stomach pains

  • Headaches

  • Changes in personality or worsening of school performance

  • Pain in hands, feet, muscles, or joints

In many cases, there are no symptoms.


Evaluation begins with a complete medical history and physical examination, including a thorough neurological examination. Further testing would usually include a blood test to measure the blood lead level and a red blood cell count to check for anemia (low red blood cell count).


Appropriate treatment depends on the blood lead level and differs for children and adults. If the level is only slightly elevated, your doctor may advise measures to reduce lead exposure and to have the blood lead level retested. In other cases, immediate medical treatment may be required. Medical treatment primarily consists of chelating agents, medications that specifically bind to lead and assist in its removal from the body. These agents can be administered by mouth or intravenously (through a needle inserted into a vein).



To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. A Patient Page on lead poisoning in children was published in the June 23/30, 1999, issue.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Environmental Protection Agency, American Academy of Pediatrics

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.





Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles