Thinking Citizen Blog — Lead Poisoning: Global Incidence, US history, Symptoms

Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Lead Poisoning: Global Incidence, US history, Symptoms

Vitruvius (80–15BC) wrote of the dangers of lead over two thousand years ago. So did the Greek physician Dioscorides (40–90 AD). Nevertheless, as recently as 2016, lead poisoning is believed to have resulted in 540,000 deaths worldwide. Today, three graphics related to lead poisoning plus a few notes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE GLOBAL PICTURE: South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East

1. Before the Industrial Revolution, lead exposure was occupational. But the “introduction of lead paint for residential use in the 19th century increased childhood exposure to lead.”

2. The first country to recognize the risk was Australia in 1897, followed by France, Belgium, and Austria in 1909 and the League of Nations in 1922.

3. “In the US laws banning lead house paint were not passed until 1971, and it was phased out and not fully banned until 1978.”


1. The great American champion of lead decontamination was Clair Patterson (1922–1995).

2. Thanks to his lobbying efforts, the use of unleaded gasoline in all new cars was mandated in 1975 and lead levels in the blood or Americans plummeted over subsequent decades.

3. The Flint Water Crisis of 2014 to 2019 brought the issue of lead contamination back into the headlines. See second link.


1. “Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems.” (third link)

2. “Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.”

3. “Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children.”

NB: “Other sources include contaminated air, water and soil. Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations or work in auto repair shops also might be exposed to lead.”

Flint water crisis

The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of


Pedanius Dioscorides

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, and art.