Lead and developmental neurotoxicity of the central nervous system

Jack Hsiang, Elva D Diaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The desirable characteristics of lead - a malleable heavy metal resistant to corrosion - have resulted in its extensive use, especially in building construction, for the past several millennia. There is no known physiological relevant role for lead in the body; however, its harmful effects are numerous. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and it is toxic to many organs and tissues. Like mercury, another heavy metal, lead is a potent neurotoxin that damages the nervous system and causes brain disorders. Although current lead usage has been minimized, lead exposure is still a risk because environmental lead is stable and no safe threshold for lead exposure has been established. Here, we review the current understanding of the effects of lead on the developing nervous system at the physiological, cellular, and molecular level. The effects of lead are particularly damaging to the developing nervous system, causing potentially irreversible learning and behavior deficits in children. Increased understanding of the deleterious effects of lead on the developing nervous system is vital to inform the safety guidelines associated with lead exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-42
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Neurobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


  • Lead neurotoxicology
  • Lead poisoning
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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