Lead posioning in childhood must be approached as a chronic disease requiring comprehensive, long-term, medical and social management of the child and his family throughout the preschool years. This is because of the combination of poor housing containing lead paints, childhood pica, and personal-social deprivation. New sources of lead, such as general contamination of the environment from industrial and motor car exhausts, must also be considered. While diagnosis and therapy are important, the pediatrician's professional responsibility to his patient and community must include prevention. An effective program for the prevention and management of childhood plumbism requires the coordinated and sustained efforts of pediatricians; health department personnel; allied health professionals, such as medical social workers and child guidance workers; the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities of the community; and the community itself.
Medical surveillance of the health of young children is almost as urgent a requirement in the case of the asymptomatic child with pica and an increased body burden of lead as it is for the child suffering from plumbism. Through such surveillance, dangerous conditions in the environment of the child can be discovered and eliminated, and the care of the threatened child can be maintained until the threat has subsided. In this manner, the incidence of the disease can be reduced ultimately to the vanishing point; meanwhile, fatalities can be prevented, and the damage to the brain of poisoned children, which often follows in the wake of lead encephalopathy, can be greatly diminished. Pediatricians have opportunities through health programs in urban areas to develop preventive techniques and to contribute significantly to the prevention of lead poisoning among children.
- Copyright © 1969 by the American Academy of Pediatrics