- Unraveling the Mystery of Why There Was No Childhood Lead Poisoning
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 60, Number 4, October 2005
- pp. 445-477
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Despite widespread use of leaded paints, classic life-threatening lead poisoning in small children began to be diagnosed as such only in the 1914–30 period. The diagnosis became suddenly more common in the 1950s and 1960s, but only in some areas of the United States. Experts focused on interior leaded paints as the source of the poison. Archival study of cases from Cincinnati and material from Denver, along with reevaluation of the medical literature, suggests that the problem should be reframed in terms of localized accident, not an epidemic. Very likely clinicians' reports accurately reflected social and material reality. Housing patterns hitherto not fully explored or understood explain why diagnoses were or were not reported. Moreover, evidence suggests the hypothesis that exterior (not interior) paint applied to middle-class houses (not mansions) may account for most cases not traced to repainted furniture and windowsills.