Lead Poisoning

“Lead harms the developing brain.”(1)

This fact was known to Romans 2,000 years ago. Vetruvius argued for replacing lead pipes with terra cotta pipes in the first century.(2)

Long before the current water crisis involving lead in municipal water systems, we had leaded gasoline. Dr. F. Perry Wilson in his commentary on Medscape argues that we are still seeing the cognitive damage from that lead source today.

From 1960 to 1980, virtually every single child in the US would have had lead levels in their blood that today we consider toxic.

Dr. Wilson

No, people don’t drink gasoline. As motor exhaust, they inhale it. As residue on objects, they touch it. As residue that is washed by rain into the water system, they do drink it. We see the absorption long after the emission. That explains the image in this chart which relates use of leaded gasoline (black line) to lead absorption in children (red line).

The damage equates to a loss of 2.6 IQ points on average for every individual. That may not sound like much, but if the norm is100 points, that equates to a loss of 3% of one’s ability to think. for those born during the peak use of leaded gasoline, between 1966 and 1970, the IQ loss averages 6 points.

Virtually everyone alive in the US today between the ages of 40 and 50 has been affected. An estimated 53% of all adults in the US have been harmed to some extent by lead from gasoline.

The damage varies depending on where the child lives. Those in the inner cities were hit the hardest.

The leaded gasoline fiasco isn’t the total sum of brain damage. We now know that Covid shrinks the brain and presumably takes a few more points away, but no one has calculated that damage yet.

And then we have lead water pipes in many homes that have been leaching lead into drinking water.

And some of us wonder why people seem to be behaving more irrationally, with conspiracy theories and upticks in violence. We may be lucky its not worse.


  1. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/969710?uac=153634BV&faf=1&sso=true&impID=4160154&src=WNL_infocu11_220413_MSCPEDIT
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/504874


  1. Mr Crain the lead not only stunts Brain development but it leaches into long bones in the growing bodies of toddlers and school aged children causing a failure of growth plates and pathological fractures that won’t heal. An important post that many of us forget. For years early in my career I was tasked to assess children with high lead levels and most exhibited delays in all academic areas including socialization. Many were thought just to have ADHD. Thank you, Vic for the thoughtful post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response. You raise an interesting question regarding the relationship of the current flood of ADHD diagnoses and lead. I’m not sure we know how many people are exposed to lead from old water pipes. I do know that one town in NJ started ripping up the streets in a rush to replace pipes last year without any public explanation. Probably the fastest public works project I’ve seen.

      Liked by 2 people

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