Even Low Lead Exposure Harms the Kidneys

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found an association between low level exposure to lead and reduced kidney function in healthy American teenagers. Although all of the teens had blood lead levels within a range generally accepted as safe, those with higher levels within that range had reduced kidney function when compared to those with lower lead levels.

The importance of these findings is that even small decreases in kidney function tend to become amplified with time and 26 million Americans currently suffer from chronic kidney disease.

The study’s authors speculate that reducing the body burden of lead may help to prevent development of chronic kidney disease or improve kidney function in those who already have impaired kidney function. They cite a study done in Taiwan which found that chelation to remove lead improved kidney function in adults with moderate kidney impairment who had evidence of low-level lead exposure.

Sources of lead exposure include drinking water, old paint, and construction materials, especially those used for plumbing. The soil around new homes is contaminated with lead.

Learn about ways to reduce lead exposure in my article “Twelve Simple Steps to A Healthy Home” at the Foundation for Integrated Medicine Website


Fadrowski et al, Blood lead level and kidney function in US adolescents. Arch Intern Med  170: 75-82 (2010). Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2007 Oct;22(10):2924-31. Long-term outcome of repeated lead chelation therapy in progressive non-diabetic chronic kidney diseases.Lin-Tan DT, Lin JL, Yen TH, Chen KH.