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There is No Acceptable Level of Lead

By Thomas P. Giuffra

There is no acceptable level of lead.  Any exposure to lead can lead to catastrophic neurological damage.  We know this.  In fact, we knew it as far back as 1976 when Herbert Needleman, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, suspected even trace amounts of lead ravaged children’s brains. His opinion was not popular at the time—the prevailing wisdom was only extremely high amounts could inflict such damage.

Needleman conducted a study, highly unpopular at the time, that showed any exposure to lead can lead to neurological issues and learning retardation in children. 

Needleman’s study revealed that lead profoundly transformed children’s brains, even at levels far below those considered dangerous. As exposure to lead rose, so did deficits: lower IQs, slower reaction times, hyperactivity, and impaired attention (today known as ADHD). Even at levels deemed “safe” at the time by health authorities, the cognitive damage was evident.

Over the next five decades, study after study began to converge on the same disturbing conclusion: “No safe blood lead level has been identified,” as the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eventually put it.

Since 1990, more than 6,000 studies have all shown that “exposures to low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory, and behavior.” The damage is permanent and untreatable given the brain’s limited ability to repair itself. Society has yet to fully act on that fact.

Yet, in New York City, children continue to be exposed to this toxin. 

In New York City, the most commonly identified source of lead exposure for children is peeling lead paint and its dust. The City banned the use of lead paint in homes in 1960, but many older buildings still have lead paint on their walls, windows, doors, and other surfaces. Lead dust from peeling, cracked or loose paint or unsafe home repairs can land on windowsills, floors, surfaces and toys and other objects people touch. When young children play on the floor and put their hands and toys in their mouths, they can swallow lead dust.

Lead can also be found in some traditional spices, ceramics, medicines, cosmetics, toys and jewelry from other countries. It can also be in soil and plumbing.

Pregnant women exposed to lead when they were younger may still have lead in their body and could pass it on to the unborn baby.

If a loved one has been exposed to lead and shows signs of neurological defects, contact us for an initial consultation.  We have a wealth of experience handling lead poisoning cases. 

Picture of Thomas P. Giuffra, Partner

Thomas P. Giuffra, Partner

Thomas specializes in the litigation and trial of significant civil sexual assault, medical malpractice, personal injury, mass tort, and product liability actions. His innovative approach has led to 20 verdicts and numerous settlements in excess of one million dollars on behalf of his clients, including a recent landmark verdict for $58 Million. He has been recognized as "outstanding in the field of advocacy" nationally and internationally.

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