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Biological Sciences Division
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December 2011

Joel Pounds Leads Review Panel for Lead Health Effects Report

Panel concurs with report stating that low lead levels impact health

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory toxicologist Dr. Joel Pounds chaired a panel that reviewed findings in a draft National Toxicology Program (NTP) report on the health effects of low levels of lead. The nine-member international panel concurred with the report's overall conclusion that there is sufficient evidence for adverse health effects in children and adults at lead levels in the blood below 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL).

The report, "Draft NTP Monograph on Health Effects of Low-level Lead," is the result of the NTP's extensive review of the current scientific literature to assess the reproductive and developmental effects of lead exposures. The evaluation included a wide range of health effects, including cardiovascular, renal, immune, and neurological effects in children and adults. 

Why it matters: Over the last 40 years, epidemiological studies, especially in children, have provided evidence of health effects at increasingly lower blood lead levels. In response, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly lowered the blood lead levels of concern from 30 µg/dL to the current 10 µg/dL. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the evidence for observing human health effects at blood lead levels below 10 µg/dL.

"The conclusions of this report will undoubtedly lead to new research to better clarify the effects of lead exposure in childhood," said Pounds, who is an international authority on the toxicology of lead and other metals.

The review took place November 17-18, 2011 at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park, NC. The NTP is considering the panel and public comments before finalizing the monograph. The process should be completed in early 2012, when the finished monograph will be posted to the NTP website.

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