D6: Reassessing Scientific and Social Determinants in Lowering Lead Risks

For 40 years, research on lead exposure has documented the adverse effects on children during developmental years. Once in the body, lead destroys nerve cells in the brain, producing impaired neuron-signal conduction, and interfering with both thinking and behavioral patterns. Lead further blocks the production of hemoglobin, leading to anemia, fatigue, and lethargy. There is no effective treatment after exposure to lead, and damage is permanent. In the U.S., children with elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs), i.e., at or above the CDC reference level of 5µg/dL, consistently score lower in reading and math tests. Every year in Philadelphia, about 2400 children with EBLLs are identified. Primary prevention by eliminating exposure to lead is the most effective strategy in lowering risks.

This session will present the latest thinking on the pathology of childhood lead poisoning, and on significant environmental exposures from both national and global perspectives. The sources of these exposures will be discussed, as well as the policy and technical underpinnings that allow these risks to continue often unabated by many levels of governance. The session will also examine alternative strategies in communication, funding, and community engagement, including the work of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, and aims at starting a dialog between NCSE, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other stakeholders in order to find efficient strategies to lower risks within all affected populations globally. Better science and collaboration between universities, governments, industry, and international institutions as well as additional funding are required to remove barriers to addressing continuing risks.


  • Reto Gieré, University of Pennsylvania Representative, Professor and Department Chair, University of Pennsylvania
  • Richard Pepino, Deputy Director, Community Engagement Core, Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, University of Pennsylvania
  • Marilyn Howarth, Adjunct Associate Professor, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
  • Walker Smith, Director, Office of Global Affairs and Policy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency