Eliminating childhood lead toxicity in Australia: a call to lower the intervention level

Mark P Taylor, Bruce P Lanphear and Chris Winder
Med J Aust 2013; 199 (5): . || doi: 10.5694/mja13.10261
Published online: 2 September 2013

In reply: In epidemiology, the weight-of-evidence approach is useful for reaching general conclusions, whereas details from selected studies are useful for understanding nuances. This is particularly important when evidence from human and experimental research is consistent across multiple studies and in populations with different characteristics, including Australia.1-3 There will always be limitations and unmeasured confounders, but, ultimately, we can rely on controlled laboratory studies which show that lead is toxic, even at picomolar concentrations.1,4

  • 1 Faculty of Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 BC Children’s Hospital, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  • 3 Faculty of Business, Australian Catholic University, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Lanphear BP, Hornung R, Khoury J, et al. Low-level environmental lead exposure and children’s intellectual function: an international pooled analysis. Environ Health Perspect 2005; 113: 894-899.<eMJA full text>
  • 2. Lanphear BP, Hornung RW, Khoury J, et al. The conundrum of unmeasured confounding: Comment on “Can some of the detrimental neurodevelopmental effects attributed to lead be due to pesticides? by Brian Gulson.” Sci Total Environ 2008; 396: 196-200.
  • 3. Earl R. An investigation of the effects of lead on children’s cognitive abilities [PhD thesis]. Adelaide: University of Adelaide, 2011. (accessed Jul 2013).
  • 4. Scheider JS, Huang FN, Vemuri MC. Effects of low-level lead exposure on cell survival and neurite length in primary mesancephalic cultures. Neurotoxicol Teratol 2003; 25: 555-559.
  • 5. Health Canada. Final human health state of the science report on lead. Ottawa: Health Canada, 2013. (accessed Jul 2013).


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