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Forensic Toxicology and Lead Poisoning

Forensic toxicology is involved with the application of science in providing answers pending before the courts. One of the poisons the field studies is lead. Once ubiquitous, lead has been revealed to have toxic effects on the human body, resulting in many cases of injury and litigation. Although its use is no longer widespread, lead continues to cause health problems. Lead toxicity and increases body burden of lead, are common in patients who live in old homes with lead containing paint. The effects of lead toxic exposure is harmful, especially to children.


Lead has been recognized as having toxic properties since Antiquity but only reached epidemic proportions during the Industrial Revolution. Clinical articles about the toxicity of lead increased during the early 19th century and became more prevalent at the start of the 20th century. As automobile traffic increased, lead was implicated in environmental pollution due to its presence in gasoline formulations. In the 1980s, lead usage saw increased restrictions once it was found to accumulate in blood.

The ancient Romans commonly used lead in various applications such as ship building. In fact, the Roman historian Pliny documented many such cases and demonstrated that lead poisoning was commonplace in the industry.

In more recent times, lead is much less present in our environment. However, it can still be found in older homes and buildings because it was formerly used in paint and building materials. The main risk of exposure in these types of environments comes from introducing lead dust into the air through activities related to renovations.

Pediatric lead poisoning

Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous to young children. Their brains and nervous systems are still developing and are particularly vulnerable to damage from lead during this critical formative period.[1] Excessive lead levels may cause a child to develop anemia, hearing damage, kidney damage, decreased bone growth, and behavior problems and various decreases of brain damage. Forensic toxicology tests have shown that lead levels of 70 mcg/dL can even prove fatal.[2]


Dr. Brautbar is a board-certified internist and nephrologist, and certified in forensic medicine. If you are interested in retaining Dr. Brautbar for forensic and expert witness testimony services, please submit the Contact Form.

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