Latent consequences of early-life lead (Pb) exposure and the future: Addressing the Pb crisis

Bryan Maloney, Baindu L. Bayon, Nasser H. Zawia, Debomoy K. Lahiri

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background. The lead (Pb) exposure crisis in Flint, Michigan has passed from well-publicized event to a footnote, while its biological and social impact will linger for lifetimes. Interest in the “water crisis” has dropped to pre-event levels, which is neither appropriate nor safe. Flint's exposure was severe, but it was not unique. Problematic Pb levels have also been found in schools and daycares in 42 states in the USA. The enormity of Pb exposure via municipal water systems requires multiple responses. Herein, we focus on addressing a possible answer to long-term sequelae of Pb exposure. We propose “4R's” (remediation, renovation, reallocation, and research) against the Pb crisis that goes beyond a short-term fix. Remediation for affected individuals must continue to provide clean water and deal with both short and long-term effects of Pb exposure. Renovation of current water delivery systems, at both system-wide and individual site levels, is necessary. Reallocation of resources is needed to ensure these two responses occur and to get communities ready for potential sequelae of Pb exposure. Finally, properly focused research can track exposed individuals and illuminate latent (presumably epigenetic) results of Pb exposure and inform further resource reallocation. Conclusion. Motivation to act by not only the general public but also by scientific and medical leaders must be maintained beyond initial news cycle spikes and an annual follow-up story. Environmental impact of Pb contamination of drinking water goes beyond one exposure incident in an impoverished and forgotten Michigan city. Population effects must be addressed long-term and nationwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-132
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Alzheimer's
  • Brain
  • CNS
  • Dementia
  • Early-life
  • Environment
  • Epigenetics
  • Heavy metals
  • Latent-effects
  • Lead
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Pollution
  • Safety
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology

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